The European Union has announced that it will provide almost €9m (£7.98m) in funding for a 30-acre park that will cross the Northern Ireland border.

he project spans 30 acres linking Strabane and Lifford

The Riverine project, which is designed to increase cross-border understanding, will stretch from Strabane, a town in west Tyrone, to Lifford, a town in the neighboring county of Donegal.

The money comes from a €270m pot of funding that was created by the EU in 2014 to support peace and reconciliation projects in both Northern Ireland and the counties in Ireland that sit along the seamless border.

Some €9m will also be provided by Ireland’s rural and community development department, and Northern Ireland’s communities department.

Gina McIntyre, from the EU body that awards the funding, noted that the project would create a “shared space which citizens can enjoy together, irrespective of their background.”

The money will be used to build a pavilion building, outdoor wetland and park space, cross-border pathways, and a pedestrian footbridge that will span the River Foyle. Riverine will host a community heritage engagement programme and a culture and peace activity trail.

A creative arts programme and a shared space connections project are also planned.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Michaela Boyle said that the project could be a “real catalyst for transformation” and said that it would “further strengthen” cross-border links.

Ireland’s Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring, said the EU funding “is a major boost for the area”.

Tracy Meharg, Permanent Secretary for the Department for Communities said the project “provides a great opportunity to further our ambitions for a shared, welcoming and confident society that respects diversity.”

MULTI-award winning technology giant Allstate is in negotiations to move into a new purpose-built 850-seat flagship office block in Derry, the Irish News can reveal.

The company, one of Northern Ireland’s first major IT inward investors, is understood to have identified a site at Ebrington, and expects the building to be open within two to three years.

The ambitious move will consolidate its operations in the north west, where it already employs around 800 staff at sites in Derry’s Northland Road and in Strabane.

The existing city office is likely to close under the new arrangement, but the Strabane facility will be retained, and it is thought a significant number of new jobs will be added to its current 2,100-strong payroll.

The company would not reveal exact details of the relocation when contacted by the Irish News given the early stages of its vision.

But a spokesman confirmed that “our real estate team in the US is currently in talks with developers” about creating the new Derry hub.

Allstate is already running at maximum capacity in Derry, and such is the speed of its organic growth that is it having to hire 100 seats at the Catalyst science park building in the city just to alleviate its current capacity problem.

A wholly-owned subsidiary of the Allstate Corporation, the largest publicly owned property and casualty insurance company in the US, Allstate has been a significant part of the business landscape in Northern Ireland for 20 years.

And its latest expansion will be seen as demonstrating confidence in the region’s highly educated workforce, competitive cost base and its research and development capability.

The Derry facility will be a slightly smaller scale version of the new 140,000 sq ft headquarters building which Allstate opened at Mays Meadow in Belfast last June as part of a £30 million investment.

That building, located between Central Station and the River Lagan, was completed in just two years. It spans six floors and includes large sociable working spaces, break-out areas, outdoor terrace and high-tech software development labs.

The project also involved extensive refurbishment of the tow path, adjacent boat marina and a restaurant unit at ground level.

At the time, Allstate NI’s managing director John Healy described the office as “a truly ground-breaking facility – an inspirational working space fit for a world-class technology organisation with a commitment to innovation, imagination and building digital technology of the future.”

The company first dipped its toe into the Northern Ireland market in 1999 as Northbrook Technology before rebranding to Allstate in 2008.

Throughout its history the company has consistently reinvested to become one of the biggest employers of tech talent in the north.

Total financial assistance offered by Invest NI to Allstate over the past 20 years is £27.2 million.

At the opening of its Belfast headquarters last year, Secretary of State Karen Bradley said: “Allstate has been instrumental in showing that, with ambition and vision, a company can grow its workforce tenfold.

“Not only have they created one of Northern Ireland’s first major IT inward investors, but they have tapped into the wealth of talent that the local workforce provides to overseas investors, providing high-quality jobs across Belfast and the north west.

“By continually investing in their staff, and their research and development into IT excellence, the Northern Ireland team are at the forefront of digital innovation. I thank them for the pivotal role they play in developing a Northern Ireland economy fit for the future.”

Significant City Deal and Economic Growth Funding Package confirmed for Derry and Strabane.

The announcement today of a £105M economic package by the UK Government in the Derry City and Strabane City Region has been widely welcomed by City and District partners with the Mayor saying it will be “a significant catalyst for change and economic growth” for the Derry City and Strabane District and the wider North West and expressed his delight that it has been secured during his Mayoral year as a key priority.

The investment package announced comprises a £50M ‘City Deal’ and a £55M ‘Inclusive Future Fund’ and is the culmination of a long period of engagement with Government in relation to advancing priority projects and initiatives within the City and District’s Inclusive Strategic Growth Plan and City Deal proposals.

Reflecting the model recently announced by Government for the Belfast Region City Deal, it is anticipated that the UK Government investment package announced today of £105M for Derry~Londonderry and Strabane will be at least matched by a similar commitment from the NI Executive and will lever further investment from project partners and other third party sources which it is hoped will eventually lead to an overall investment injection of in excess of £300M.

The announcement follows a visit to the City last July when the Chancellor, Philip Hammond met with civic and political leaders to hear of the plans and invited a bid for a City Deal to be formally submitted.

The bid, supported and endorsed by all local and regional political parties and representatives and devised around the key strategic economic projects outlined in the City and District’s Inclusive Strategic Growth Plan 2017-2032.

Led by Derry City and Strabane District Council, the bid was developed in partnership, and with the support of a wide range of local education, business and economic partners – including the Ulster University, the North West Regional College, both the Londonderry and Strabane Chambers of Commerce, the Western Health and Social Care Trust, Visit Derry, City Centre Initiative and the Foyle Port, in consultation with all associated NI Government Departments.

At the core of the bid is education, innovation, job creation and skills development with a key focus being the advancement of the much sought after expansion and growth of the Magee campus of Ulster University.

The investment package announced today, will enable planning and business case development to now proceed on proposals for a significant landmark riverfront university medical education and innovation hub, comprising a graduate entry medical college and centres of innovation, research and teaching excellence in data-driven personalised medicine, cognitive analytics and robotics and automation, eventually delivering over 200 new posts/research assistants at the City’s university and upwards of 2,000 additional students.

The stimulus package will additionally advance the delivery of a range of smart city and digital infrastructure projects and initiatives, further positioning the City and District as a highly digitally enabled location for cutting-edge business development and expansion and inward investment.

The catalytic impact of this could therefore result in the single biggest ever combined and integrated funding injection the City and District, that will enable progress and delivery of other key infrastructure, tourism and regeneration projects contained within the Plan and Bid in both Derry City Centre and Riverfront and in Strabane Town Centre.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor John Boyle said: “This hugely significant announcement today for the Derry and Strabane District will go some considerable way in addressing the long-standing obstacles to economic development that this City Region and its people face. It is good news and is the result of an enormous amount of work and sustained effort invested by Council and the City and Regional partners to develop, deliver and negotiate on the bid.”

Council Chief Executive John Kelpie acknowledged the collaborative approach and the unified vision and commitment demonstrated by politicians, and partner organisations in development of the bid and the advice and support received regionally and nationally in securing such a positive outcome.

Enthusiastic about the opportunity presented by today’s announcement he commented: “This City and District has seen much progress in recent years economically, physically and socially. It has however significant remaining challenges in overcoming an infrastructure deficit and a legacy of underinvestment both of which have been such inhibitors to sustainable economic growth.

“This funding package, if directed at the key agreed strategic growth projects and if used to lever significant further public and private sector investment, will deliver a new era of unprecedented growth and development for the City and Region providing tangible benefits for all of our citizens and a promising future for our children and young people.”

Other City Deal Project partners reacted equally positively with the Vice Chancellor of Ulster University, Professor Paddy Nixon said, “This investment will now see the rapid development of plans to grow and enhance facilities and student numbers at the Magee Campus including the Graduate Entry Medical School.”

Brian McGrath, President of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce said: “This funding is hugely welcome and provides a solid platform upon which to grow and enhance the competitiveness of the City and Region and attract further significant exciting new companies, business prospects and investment.”

Council Chief Executive, John Kelpie concluded:  “The next steps will now be for everyone to continue to work together to develop the necessary detailed business plans and advance the projects through planning and design. We will do this by using this unprecedented opportunity to promote the future of this City and District as a location of choice for all in terms of business, lifestyle and ambition.”