Galway city is to get a long-awaited permanent civic arts space as part of a planned redevelopment of its major post office.
An Post announced on Wednesday that it had tasked agents Cushman & Wakefield with a competitive tender to redevelop the landholding at the junction of Eglinton Street and William Street.
The site includes the city’s central post office as well as a number of buildings behind it that housed a former telephone exchange and now defunct sorting and storage offices.
One of the vacant buildings in the complex, on a laneway off the street, was repurposed by the Galway International Arts Festival in 2019 and used as a temporary art gallery.
Under the An Post plan, a property developer will refurbish the existing post office, create a civic space and will be free to use the rest for retail and commercial units. It is intended that, while An Post will still own the land, the redevelopment will be on a very long lease.
A spokeswoman for An Post said the company had wanted to refurbish the post office for a long time, and pointed out that there was an acknowledged shortage of civic spaces in the city.
Despite its reputation for the arts, Galway has long lacked a permanent civic arts space or city gallery.
In 2019 An Post made available one of the buildings, comprising 640 sq m (6,888 sq ft), which had not been used in decades, to the Galway International Arts Festival. It transformed it into a temporary pop-up gallery, over nine weeks work, costing €50,000.
At that stage An Post intended that the complex, including the public post office and the festival temporary gallery building, would go to market.
Deals to sell the An Post buildings had fallen apart at a late point twice in the past, in 2008 and 2013.
‘Hub of activity’
Welcoming the announcement, Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, Hildegarde Naughton, who has responsibility for An Post, said "this new development, once complete, will become a hub of activity which will benefit all walks of life in Galway".
Describing the location as a “hidden gem”, she said: “I am particularly excited for the arts community, and the team behind the Galway International Arts Festival, which have already demonstrated boundless initiative at this location in recent times with the support of An Post.”
There has been a post office at Eglinton Street since the 1850s serving the needs of the city. Among former staff was the poet Máirtín Ó Direáin who worked in Eglinton Street during the 1920s and 1930s. There is a plaque on the wall outside the main post office dedicated to him.
The Galway International Arts Festival welcomed the news, saying it had “a long history of temporarily transforming old buildings to facilitate the arts and this news is something we have wanted for Galway for a long time”.