The great debate regarding what should be done to stop the deterioration of Main Street in Portlaoise continues to divide both councillors and retailers in the town. Both camps are, however, united in the belief that something definitely has to be done, and quickly.
Main Street was once the heart of Portlaoise town - it was the centre through which all traffic passed. But since it was by-passed and traffic diverted to the new road, it has, according to some retailers, deteriorated.
The cobble locking paving is now in need of repair and, despite the addition of a number of new businesses to the area, several premises continued to remain vacant and rundown. The age old problem of parking continues to cause immense problems for both consumers and retailers.
But the issue, according to most retailers, is that no one appears to be able to make a united decision on what should be done to rejuvenate the area.
Joe Conroy is in business a little over a year, his clothes store ‘Monkey Business’ is located on Main Street. As the owner of a relatively new business on the street, he said he chose to locate his business on Main Street for several reasons, including the fact that rent prices were competitive and, more importantly, because he felt that the street would be developed. This appeared to be on the “back burner”, he said.
“Repairs desperately need to be carried out on both the road and the footpath, which is in a terrible state,” he stated.
“Some of the buildings are also deteriorating, we need to create a vibrant area to attract new businesses on to Main Street. I personally feel that the area should be recobbled and pedestrianised, more in line with some of the towns you see in Kerry, or on the continent.”
Alan Flynn of AJ Menswear, located on Main Street since the early 1970s, also said the street was in poor condition.
“It’s a poor reflection on Portlaoise if we can’t even identify the Main Street. I don’t think what we have at the moment is representative of what a main street of a county town should be,” he said.
“The addition of banks and other financial institutions have made the area into more of a finanical district rather than a retail one and this should be looked at.”
He reiterated that the cobble locking was now in a poor state of repair.
“It’s been dug up so many times that now it looks like the only solution is perhaps to resurface the whole street. It’s far too dangerous to leave it any longer, I’ve seen several people fall on it,” he said.
Parking still remains the biggest problem for all retailers along Portlaoise Main Street, who believe the issue urgently needs to be addressed.