New look ‘shop fronts’ spark online debate

Derelict shop fronts get a makeover in West Street.  INCT 14-724-CON
Derelict shop fronts get a makeover in West Street. INCT 14-724-CON

A revitalisation project aimed at improving derelict shop frontages on West Street has drawn a mixed reaction from local residents.

Funded by the Department of Social Development and the former Carrickfergus Council, the £55,000 investment saw the transformation of several derelict buildings with the addition of newly- painted facades.

Traders have noticed a more upbeat feel about the place after having had to watch the street be in decline for so long

West Street Traders

It is the latest project to take place as part of the overhaul of the town centre ‘gateway’ area.

Welcoming the new look in the town’s retail heart were Stanley and Sandra McKeown. “We’ve been in Carrick 25 years and have watched West Street gradually go downhill. I think this is first class work,” said Stanley. “It’s a great improvement compared to what was there before,” added Sandra.

The revamped shop fronts are a welcome reminder of Carrick’s retail past, according to local man Herbie Holmes. “I remember when some of these shops like Murtagh’s were open. I’m pleased to see the names back on West Street,” he added.

However, there were some concerns over future maintenance of the facades. “I’ve seen something similar done in other towns; two or three years later the paint starts to peel or it’s covered in graffiti,” said William Knox, who works in the town centre.

Meanwhile, the issue sparked debate on social media, with suggestions that the funding could have been better spent in other areas.

“It would be preferable to have something behind the fake fronts. That won’t boost income to the town centre at all,” said Facebook user Naomi Allen.

Colin McNally added: “Nicer looking, but why not reduce the rates in the town so people could actually afford to keep a business open?”

However, the investment was welcomed by town centre retailers’ group, West Street Traders.

A Facebook comment from the group read: “Traders have noticed a more upbeat feel about the place after having had to watch the street be in decline for so long.

“We are of the opinion that with the little money that has been spent, there will be a bigger draw for new business interests as painting or shutter replacement would be seen as an unnecessary cost that has already been taken care of.”