Limerick regeneration plan aims to reverse decades of decline

‘Limerick 2030’ claims to have potential to deliver 12,000 new jobs

Mon, Feb 3, 2014, 01:00

Also proposed is an “iconic destination building on the waterfront”, tentatively named Limerick Cultural Centre, on a site currently occupied by the former Dunnes Stores outlet beside Sarsfield Bridge. This could incorporate new performance, exhibition and conference facilities, but there is no indication how it would be funded.

The centre is promised in the context of developing a “world-class waterfront” along the river Shannon – in line with the Limerick Riverside City brand adopted in 2009; a “renaissance” of the quays is already under way, with high-quality paving being laid, to make Limerick more attractive for locals and tourists alike.

It could certainly do with more tourists. The Hunt Museum, installed in the former Custom House in 1997, attracts only about 45,000 visitors a year. And while Limerick benefits from a good range of hotels – largely levered by tax incentives – room occupancy levels, at 53 per cent, are the lowest for any city in Ireland.

‘Put pedestrians first’
On transport, Limerick 2030 seeks to “remove as much extraneous traffic from the city centre as possible” and “put pedestrians first”, with wider footpaths and more generous crossing points, as part of a drive to create a “high-quality and safe urban environment” for residents, visitors, business and potential investors.

As the plan says, “it is essential that a co-ordinated effort is made to market and rebrand Limerick”. The city has suffered enormously in the past from violent crime and gang warfare in sink estates such as Moyross and Southill. But most of the criminals are now behind bars and the areas they used to infest are slowly being regenerated.

One of the plan’s principal aims is to “make the city centre once again a desirable place to live by improving the quality of the housing on offer”. It estimates that there is potential for a minimum of 800 to 1,000 new homes in the area, mainly by converting Georgian houses in Newtown Pery – long since taken over for offices – back to residential.

This could be done by encouraging owner occupation under the Government’s tax incentive scheme for Georgian properties in Limerick, Waterford and Dublin or by working with the city’s third-level institutions to develop residential accommodation in the city centre for students, postgraduates and academic staff.

Pilot scheme
“A pilot scheme is required to demonstrate the potential and prove the market,” according to the plan drawn up by GVA Grimley in collaboration with Aecom and Thinking Place, for the soon-to-be-united city and county councils. Altogether, some €250 million – mainly private sector investment – would be needed to deliver it.

“The wider invigoration of the city centre can be expected to lead to organic and private sector-led development activity which could substantially increase housing outputs,” it says, adding that “renovation and appropriate conservation activity” would extend across the Georgian quarter and eventually into Irish Town.

The plan was adopted last November by both the city and county councils after 31 submissions were received from the public. It will now have to be incorporated into the Limerick City Development Plan by way of a variation, which will require a further public consultation process prior to any final decisions on the rezoning of land.

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