New Street garden in the heart of Waterford city has transformed and given a new lease of life to a derelict site once earmarked for a major retail and hotel development.
A terrace of beautifully maintained houses owned mainly by elderly residents were purchased as part of the landbank for the potential development but sadly the development company fell victim to the recession.The houses on a section of the site fell into disrepair and following a spate of anti-social behaviour they were demolished by Waterford City Council. Last January, weeds, broken bottles, cans and other litter fought for space on the site.
That was until city-based teacher, Edel Tobin – a woman who never takes no for an answer – came up with the idea of a community garden, developed by the community and for the community with everything from labour, expertise and materials provided at little or no cost.
When asked, the City Council partnered the project, support was given by staff of the internationally renowned Mount Congreve Gardens, unemployed people involved in the Ballybeg Community Garden project a couple of miles away offered their help as did local retailers, craftsmen such as electricians, carpenters, plumbers, tillers, amateur gardeners, pensioners, children and artists.
Some items had to be purchased and money had to be raised to facilitate a summer programme of activities and the people of Waterford were not found wanting when they raised €10,000 through a Fundit campaign.
GIY also staunchly supported the project and encouraged the development of a herb garden which was planted and is being cared for by city primary school children.
Over a period of six months the site was transformed. Recycled goods such as lampstands, old tyres and broken tiles were given a new lease of life to enhance the community/entertainment space which was formally opened by President Michael D. Higgins on June 20th last.
New Street garden is now an oasis of tranquility in the city centre, with a huge stage it is a venue for live music, it is an open air cinema, it is a garden, it is a venue for major festivals such as Waterford Spraoi, the Harvest and Imagine festivals, an art space, a learning space and above all, it belongs to the people of Waterford.
New Street Garden has given hope for renewal, it has instilled pride in everyone involved and amazed spectators and it is a constant reminder there is a use for everything and that good can come from adversity.