Task Force attempts to revitalize former Derry Austins department store

A Sinn Fein councilor has proposed that a new task force be set up to breathe new life into Austins department store in Derry.

In a motion to be presented to Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councilor John McGowan is urging local authorities to revitalize the old town center store.

Austins, which opened in 1830, finally closed in 2016 after managing to survive the Great Irish Famine, two World Wars, the Partition of the Island and the Ulster Troubles.

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It is believed to be one of the oldest department stores in the world, starting before Macy’s in New York and Harrods in London.

In 2017, there were hopes the building could be restored to its former glory when a request to restore and renovate the historic Derry Austins building was filed with planners.

However, to date, nothing had come out of the plans.

Speaking ahead of the full council meeting on March 31, Cllr McGowan said he hoped his motion could ‘return one of the city’s iconic buildings to positive use’.

He said: ‘I will be moving this week’s full council motion that we establish a task force to bring the former Austins building in the Diamond back to positive use.

“This is a historic building right in the heart of our city center and it is a tragedy to see it in its current condition.

“I think we should do everything possible to realize the potential of this magnificent historic building which can bring a real economic boost to the city centre.

“The Task Force can take this work forward, engaging with the current owners and all relevant departments and agencies to seek solutions and deliver an ambitious path forward for this building so that it can once again be part of the fabric and the heartbeat of our downtown core. .”

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