AN English Market-style food emporium is being proposed for the centre of Clonakilty.
The Southern Star has learned that Cork County Council is currently seeking to purchase the vacant Lehane’s building on Pearse Street – the former Mace shop – and transform the premises to tie in with the redevelopment works just completed in the town.
The proposal by Council officials suggests developing the building as a West Cork ‘experience’ so the region has its own version of the English Market, which would also prove to be a major tourist attraction. It would be open year-round and not be weather-dependent.
The redevelopment of the three-storey building could see the establishment of up to 30 retail ‘pods’ on the ground floor allowing small but established food producers the opportunity to promote and sell their products.
There will also be a provision to help young start-up food producers with an estimated 10 ‘pods’ set aside specifically for those who wish to test their products as part of a regional area business support scheme.
It is also envisaged that the first floor could be used as a gallery space supporting local artisan craftspeople, while there are also plans for a business incubation centre on the second floor. This would accommodate start-up companies where a range of services like broadband and web-conferencing facilities would be made available.
When contacted by The Southern Star for a comment, local Fine Gael TD Jim Daly confirmed that he had met with senior officials in the Council with a view to the Council purchasing the property. Deputy Daly also said he is confident of securing the necessary funding from this government to redevelop the building as a major tourist attraction for the town and the West Cork region.
‘I have received assurances from the Taoiseach Enda Kenny that he will support my efforts to secure up to €1m for this project. This represents an incredible opportunity for tourism and a very significant boost to the local economy if we can get this project off the ground,’ Deputy Daly told The Southern Star.
Kate Ryan, a Clonakilty-based food blogger who runs a food trail in the town, said the development was fantastic news for Clonakilty.
‘Small food businesses will be able to utilise this space to establish themselves in a premises of their own, making their individual mark in a town that is well known for supporting artisan craftspeople from all areas, whether that is food, drink or craft,’ she said.