There is one reason why I occasionally drive to Newbridge 10km from my home - The Whitewater Shopping Centre.
Newbridge hit the jackpot when building the largest regional shopping centre in Ireland in 2009 making it the ‘Capital of Kildare’.
Nothing boosts the finances of a town as successful retail offerings. The clever designs of shopping centres caters for so many of our modern desires: Retail, entertainment and food - making it completely unnecessary to leave the building for anything else.
We drive in and park in the basement and visit the shops in safety and comfort from traffic and unpredictable weather, the shopping centre works as a covered town square and a cathedral of modern entertainment desires.
However shopping centres are notorious for 'turning in on themselves', leaving windowless facades to face the town and making adjacent streets mere access routes and no longer urban spaces. Apart from the entrance square so does the Whitewater and the building becomes an isolated 'island' in the town.
From Mainstreet you barely know that the shopping centre is there and as the central spine - like so many other Mainstreets - it is blighted by cars, making any ventures to cross not attractive at all. This of course only strengthens the allure of staying in the shopping centre.
I wonder what would happen if we gave the same amount of attention to people's happiness in the streets of our towns as inside our shopping centres? Making them 'people-friendly instead of car-friendly would solve so many of the issues that challenges modern society today and not just our desire to shop!