Life for businesses on Portlaoise's Main Street continues to be one of challenges and opportunities.
As detailed in the AGM of the Downtown Portlaoise Traders Group last week, many new businesses have opened in the town and this, of course, is to be welcomed.
However, it has not offset the number of closures that have taken place over the past year, with some well established businesses closing their doors, and with them goes a quality of business and trading experience that is in many ways irreplacable.
The issues facing Portlaoise are much the same for any other town its size and have been detailed many times.
However, Portlaoise does possesse a number of advantages, that should not be overlooked.
The streetscape itself is attractive and lends itself to the independent busineseses and artisan producers.
The Town's heritage was noted by the Downtown group and it too can be more of an asset.
Moreover, there is a vision or plan for the town, and whether you agree with it or not, this is a positive thing.
The Portlaoise Public Realm strategy addresses in a fundamental way much of the town's physical infrastructure, in an effort to improve and enhance it.
Not everyone agrees with it and there is understandable trepiditation amongst many as to what it might entail.
However, the considerations of initiatives such as the limited pedestrianisation of Main Street, as well as tackling dereliction and vacant properties are practical steps that could be acted on fairly quickly.
Similarly, linking the old and new parts of town, an issue which was well aired at the public meetings on the strategy, should be examined in more detail.
And not forgetting the old convent site, currently for sale, which does have the potential to change the dynamic of the downtown area. The eventual use of this site is anyone's guess at present.
Initiatives such as the extension to 45 minutes free parking should help.
More importantly the process that began with the Public Realm Strategy should continue, with all the stakeholders involved.
Even having working groups engaged in meetings and dialogue on the issues involved can be very useful in facing up to the challenges of doing business.
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