EAGER shoppers braved wind and rain at the opening of a €300m shopping centre close to the heart of a medieval city.
The new MacDonagh Junction centre, built on a 10.5-acre site beside Kilkenny's train station, is to create 500 jobs and provide 25,000sqm of new shopping space for the city.
The first stage of the development comprises 11 new stores -- including the city's third Dunnes outlet.
Part of the new centre is situated on the former Kilkenny workhouse, dating back to the Great Famine, which has been restored and integrated into a glass-covered atrium. More than 800 skeletal remains from the famine period were found in archaeological digs prior to construction at the site and planning permission has now been lodged for these to be re-interred in a specially built memorial garden.
The new development also includes 114 apartments and underground parking for 1,100 cars.
A 121-bedroom hotel is expected to open in 2008 on the site with the name of the operator yet to be announced.
Kilkenny County Council and CIÉ, the previous owners of the site, have jointly retained a 9pc shareholding in the development.
"The opening of MacDonagh Junction marks the culmination of several years of intensive planning, design and construction work which has taken place in co-operation with the city authorities and Iarnrod Eireann," said Paul Hanby, a senior partner in MacDonagh Junction Development Company.
"This process has yielded a new city quarter which will be highly regarded not just in Kilkenny but throughout Ireland and will attract further commercial, consumer and residential activity into the city."
Dunnes, River Island, TK Maxx, Champion, Mexx, Zumo and Peter Mark were the first of 50 retailers to open at the new centre.
Dara De Faoite