A NOVEL idea for the revitalisation of the Main Street in Portlaoise certainly raised the roof at County Hall last week - let’s turn the street into a stadium-style outdoor venue complete with retractable roof.
So proposed Cllr Jerry Lodge at the Portlaoise Town Council meeting, when he called on the government to introduce an urban renewal scheme to assist towns suffering from the “doughnut effect” and that Portlaoise be designated for such a pilot scheme.
“I don’t think that one hour free parking and business incentives are enough, we have to take an integrated approach,” he said.
“Portlaoise is very successful at festivals, what about a retractable roof, like a stadium, on a portion of Main Street? I just want to be different.”
“Well, you’re certainly being different talking about a retractable roof,” remarked cathaoirleach, Cllr Willie Aird.
“I’ve often heard it said that if we could roof this little country we’d have a great place,” said Cllr Caroline Dwane.
“Well, let’s start with Portlaoise,” replied Cllr Lodge.
During a lively discussion, Cllr Lodge also suggested that perhaps the council should offer free rent and no rates for one year to any business willing to take on one of the town’s vacant sites.
“We should persuade the county manager to set up a plan to create jobs and enhance and renew Main Street. It sounds a bit airy-fairy at the minute, but we could do it,” he said.
Cllr Matthew Keegan also proposed a motion requesting the county manager to “energetically encourage” the restoration of the old Portlaoise town centre as a place of business.
Cllr Keegan said that every second month the councillors were raising motions for the renewal of Main Street and he hoped the county manager would “spread the good news” about the street as a viable place of business.
However, he conceded that as far as ideas went, Cllr Lodge had set the standard high.
“How can I match Cllr Lodge’s suggestion?” he said.
Town manager, Mr Michael Rainey informed the councillors that the council are currently drafting a business incentive scheme to renew the town as an economic hub.
A written response to Cllr Keegan’s motion from Ms Carmel McNicholl, economic development with Laois County Council, said that the council is aware of the need to promote and encourage the development of Main Street and will work to reinvigorate it.