Mr Larkin (44), a former Mayor of Donegal County Council and Letterkenny Town Council, takes up his role on Monday, July 28.
The aim of the new role is to help boost business in the town, while supporting shopkeepers and putting in place initiatives to increase footfall along the town’s Main Street.
Mr Larkin, who was born and reared in Lower Main Street, has lived and worked in the Cathedral town all his life and he is looking forward to this new challenge.
On Wednesday morning, he spoke to the Donegal News about being handed the onerous task of reviving the traditional town centre.
With one-in-six properties in the Main Street currently empty he is well aware of the issues at hand but he believes that he possesses both the enthusiasm and passion to drive this project to fruition.
There are many reasons why town centres are suffering at present including accessibility, out of town shopping centres, car parking charges and enforcement, and e-commerce competition.
“To come out successful in an interview in your own town and see the confidence shown in you by other people is great. It’s a wonderful honour. It’s a job I relish and one I look forward to but I’ll be relying on, and engaging with, and awful lot of people to ensure the success of this particular project,” he said.
“I was lucky enough to have been a public representative for a number of years and I look forward now to being able to focus my energies on helping to regenerate the town centre and town as a whole.”
One of the new Town Centre Manager’s jobs will be to prepare an investment prospectus, detailing the properties available, the opportunity, and the deficiencies in the current mix of retail.
Working from an office in the Courtyard Shopping Centre, Mr Larkin said his door will be always open.
“There’s no such thing as a bad idea. There are certain things that won’t fit in with the Main Street as it stands at present, others which mightn’t work and yet more which will fit into longer term strategy but I’m open to them all,” he said.
“I have plans and a vision but I want to get the public on board to make sure that we bring not only more retail shops to the town centre but the right mix of shops.”
Earlier this year, Mr Larkin quit politics after 15 years in public life – most recently as a Fianna Fáil Councillor. He believes that time spent as a local public representative gives him a unique insight into his new role.
“With so many properties in the Main Street currently empty, one of my first priorities is to work with the Council, Municipal District and other bodies at regional and national level to make sure that Letterkenny is to the fore when it comes to benefiting from any funding which may become available. I would like to think that the Government’s focus is very much weighted in favour of entrepreneurship and jobs and we will position ourselves well to avail of any schemes that come forward,” he said.
A former chairman of the County Development Board, Mr Larkin was also Mayor of both Letterkenny and Donegal Councils.
What about those people who will say that this may be seen as a political appointment?
“I went through a robust interview process and I don’t think that anyone can question the integrity of those people who are involved in the Town Team.
“When anyone takes up a new appointment they’re always out to prove a point and I’m no different. I’m very fortunate to be in this position but I can assure everyone that I went through a very hard interview and presentation process and, thankfully, came out the other side of it,” he said.
In April he completed a BA in Public Management. Married to Mary, the couple have four children Danielle (19), Courtney (17), James (14) and Matthew (7).
“I look forward to showing people that I am the right man for the job and I’ve the confidence in myself to do that,” he said.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for me and, in many respects, I see that the wheel has turned full circle.”
Mr Larkin’s late grandfather, John G Larkin, was the first town clerk in Letterkenny. The Larkin family enjoyed over 50 years unbroken service in the town between Dessie and his late father James.
Local businessman, Mark Bundschu, from ABC, who has been leading the initiative, said they were confident that the new Town Centre Manager has all the key skills required to bring together all the key stakeholders in implementing the plan to revitalise the Town centre.
“Since the beginning of this initiative there has been much support and enthusiasm, particularly from the private sector, who are its driving force at present, Dessie has very strong networks as well as an excellent understanding of funding and public sector processes, his appointment will be instrumental in giving this initiative a future beyond its initial one year.
“This appointment is essential to oversee our goals and visions realised. We are delighted with the appointment and are confident that working together with this very clear focus will ensure our town centre will thrive well into the future,” he said.
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