3. Barrow Track / Civic Spine

Closed28 Sep, 2020, 1:00pm - 26 Oct, 2020, 5:00pm


Carlow’s Riverfront provides the opportunity to shape the Town’s future and deliver an exemplary model for sustainable compact growth in an urban environment. The vision is to create a distinctive mixed-use quarter, the first of its kind in Carlow, that brings the River back into the heart of the Town Centre as a key attribute.

At present, the River Barrow is not utilised to its full potential within the Town. This Strategy seeks to unlock the potential of Carlow’s Riverfront, specifically the lands at Barrow Track which are currently vacant and underutilised.

Located on the northern side of the Town Centre, opposite Carlow Town Park, the Barrow Track lands have approx. 300m of prime river frontage. Entered onto the vacant sites register in 2018 (Reg. No. VS18-22), the site presents the opportunity to deliver an innovative, mixed-use urban quarter, the integration of which with the River Barrow will be a defining feature of the area. It is envisaged that the site can support a significant level of high-quality development that will integrate innovative design solutions and a mix of uses.

The development of this area in line with this Strategy also provides the opportunity to integrate the site with the Town Core to the south and into the wider Town Centre to the east through the delivery of enhanced connects through the Courthouse, to VISUAL and Carlow College.

The delivery of this ‘Civic Spine’ through the centre of Carlow Town will require cooperation between multiple landowners including Carlow County Council. A collaborative effort is required on multiple fronts to achieve this visionary development for the benefit of the Town as a whole.

Health & Wellbeing Principles

  • Improved air quality by promoting pedestrian and cycling movements;
  • Provides an improvement in the built environment;
  • Creation of a sympathetic design that is visually appealing;
  • Offers a place for the community and ‘social environment’ to thrive;
  • Provides areas specifically for recreation, leisure and amenity resources;
  • Provides access to urban green space;
  • Connection to The Barrow Way; and
  • Opportunity to open riverfront amenities and recreational activities.

Layout plan 

“We are realising that if you have people walk and bicycle more, you have a more lively, more liveable, more attractive, more safe, more sustainable and more healthy city” - Jan Gehl

Carlow’s Riverfront will play a critical role in the future growth and expansion of the Town. The River Barrow, and the Barrow Track site in particular, have a much greater potential to contribute to the fabric of Carlow Town than is currently being realised. While it has been recognised that the River Barrow is an important feature for the Town, unlocking its potential has been an on-going challenge. The Barrow Track provides the opportunity for the creation of a new vibrant urban quarter adjacent to the River Barrow that can accommodate various different uses and complement other Town Centre uses, as well as providing connections to Carlow College, Carlow Railway Station, Carlow Castle and more.

The Barrow Track lands present the opportunity to expose the River and integrate it back into the public realm as part of a network of amenity areas within and surrounding the Town. Opening up the River Barrow through the provision of enhanced walkways, new link streets and an additional pedestrian bridge will also deliver a host of practical benefits to the people of the Town. Direct routes east and west across the River and through to the Civic Spine, as well south to the Town Centre and north to connect to the Barrow Way amenity trail, will enhance the quality of place Carlow offers, making it more liveable and visually attractive.

The Barrow Track lands will be a complete community and an attractive neighbourhood in its own right. It will also serve as an exemplar for innovative design and integrated land uses. The vision for this site would see the prioritisation of movement, housing, public realm and social infrastructure. A network of people-first streets, with walkable street designs, enhanced cycling options and accessibility initiatives will improve connections with other parts of the Town Centre. Town Centre living will be realised through the provision of high-quality, mixed low and medium density dwellings. The Barrow Track’s public realm will comprise of public and private open space, with connections to the riverfront and across to Carlow Town Park. These spaces have been designed to draw people of all ages and abilities outdoors, as well as to bring people down to the water. On top of all this, a lively mix of retail, restaurant, café and hotel uses will act to serve a thriving and vibrant streetscape and community. There will also be potential for a community building which would inspire civic engagement and link to the Civic Spine and Carlow College.

Town Centre regeneration has been shown to have measurable benefits beyond the immediate area to the wider physical environment of the Town as people move back to live in the Town Centre, footfall and spend is increased, vitality and viability is improved and further investment is attracted. The Barrow Track lands have a bold vision for a shared street network within a new neighbourhood which prioritises walking and cycling, making car usage secondary and enhancing access to the River Barrow. The neighbourhood will be linked to Carlow Town Park by a new pedestrian bridge and to the Civic Spine by a shared surface link, completing the Town Centre and greenway connections through the site.

Sustainability Principles

  • Prioritising walking, cycling and public transport use;
  • Improving public transport connectivity for Carlow both locally and regionally;
  • Creating a vibrant Town Centre through the delivery of an enhanced public realm with improved accessibility for sustainable transport modes; • Improving connectivity between the Town Centre and natural assets such as the River Barrow and River Burrin;
  • Promoting the delivery of energy efficient buildings, sustainable energy measures for the public realm and encouraging innovative solutions from the private sector; and
  • Supporting compact urban growth by building on existing assets and capacity to create critical mass and scale for regional growth.

River Barrow Water Hub

Carlow County Council have progressed plans for a state-of-the-art Water Hub along the River Barrow. The Water Hub, located on the western bank of the River Barrow and south of Carlow Town Park, will comprise boat houses, changing facilities and a cafe. The Water Hub will bring new life to the underutilised riverbank as well as supporting the active use of the River Barrow. The Water Hub will support this Intervention for a regenerated Carlow Riverfront.

Water hub

The River Regenerated

The Barrow Way is a 113km pedestrian/cycle path which runs from Robertstown in Co. Kildare to St. Mullin’s in Co. Carlow. The Barrow Way follows the towpath, originally a path alongside the River Barrow where horses pulled barges and goods for transport. The Barrow Track site sits right along this walkway and yet, despite this amenity, has remained undeveloped and underutilised. It is considered that this site offers enormous potential to completely regenerate the Riverfront and to link with The Barrow Way. A mixed-use development providing associated services such as accommodation and retail/ restaurants at this location can support the natural amenity and tourist attraction of the River.

The Barrow Way has the potential to become a prime tourist asset for Carlow, similar to the Greenways located in Westport and Dungarvan. In addition to better recreational amenities and improved health outcomes, there is a clear economic value in urban greenways. The Westport Greenway brought in €7.2 million to the local economy in 2011, outlining the positive economic benefits associated with nature-based corridors. The Barrow Track land has the capability of becoming a highquality mixed-use quarter which puts the focus on the Riverfront and all the potential it has to offer the Town Centre. 

Key Projects

  • Project Linkages
    • Key Development Interventions
      • Private mixed use development
      • Hotel development
      • Low and medium density residential developments
      • Community use buildings
    • Key Linkage Interventions
      • Opening up of Civic Spine
      • Pedestrian bridge across the River Barrow to link to Carlow Town Park ​​​​​​
  • Key Features
    • Increased east-west connectivity
    • Facilitates pedestrian and cycling movement
    • Additional viewpoints from the River Barrow
    • Potential for recreational activities on River Barrow
  • Key Physical Changes
    • Mixed use development consisting of hotel, leisure, residential, community and recreational spaces
    • Integration of a water hub at the River Barrow
    • Greater connection to Carlow College through the introduction of the ‘Civic Spine’
    • Development of a bridge connection to Carlow Town Park

Key Design Moves

  • Civic Spine connection with shared pedestrian and vehicular surface
  • New pedestrian bridge connecting the Civic Spine with Carlow Town Park


The interventions outlined above should deliver the following;

  • A mixed use development consisting of commercial, recreational, residential and community uses
  • The opening up and positive exposure of the River Barrow
  • The development of an underutilised asset in the town

Project Summary

The various projects outlined as part of this Intervention will act as the catalyst for change in Carlow Town. The regeneration of this underutilised site and the integration of the River Barrow into the Town Centre and its reinvigoration will result in a transformative and dynamic new neighbourhood. The delivery of the overall scheme of projects presented as part of this Intervention will require a collaborative approach by both public and private parties.

An Exemplar

As this land is in private ownership, the final layout and detailed design will be subject to consultation with the Local Authority and therefore, it is difficult to determine an exemplar. However, a key feature of this Intervention is the reinvigoration of the riverfront, a challenge facing many regional towns and cities across the Country.

Bonham Quay in Galway City is a high-quality office development located in the City’s dock area. The development is located on a long-term vacant site which will help to reinvigorate that surrounding area, incorporating the docklands back into the City Centre. Active ground floor uses and public open space along the waterfront will result in a transformative development for Galway.

Waterford’s North Quay development, while a project on a larger scale than envisaged for Carlow Town, is a regeneration project with a vision to build on the context of its riverside location to create a high-quality urban quarter as a natural extension to the City Centre. The project, which will cost in the region of €350 million, will be phased over three to five years.

While these exemplars do not provide costings that can be directly applied to the Barrow Track lands, they do demonstrate how other cities and towns are addressing the issue of underutilised waterfronts.

Phasing & Costs

Barrack Track / Civic Spine
  • This area is largely a private development site. The final layout and design of the public realm internal to the site will be the subject to development by the landowners and funded by same.
  • Any potential public private partnership will detail the proportionality of costs in relation to the public realm.
  • In relation to the pedestrian bridge crossing it is estimated to be in the region of €1.5 - €2 million subject to design.
  • The main public proposals include the two new bridges with the delivery of same subject to availability of funding from different sources.