THE Limerick Institute of Technology is in talks to open a ‘fashion hub’ at the former Instore Direct building in Ellen Street.
The college is in advanced discussions to buy the shop, which closed in 2011, and transform it into an incubator centre designed to provide space for up to 100 fashion students and graduates.
The landmark shop looks set to be retrofitted to accommodate the centre, modelled on LIT’s Hartnett Acceleration Centre in Moylish, which provides space for small to medium sized enterprises.
Fashion designers from the Limerick School of Art and Design – now affiliated to the college – will be given a ‘free-of-charge, wrap around support’ service for the first year of the business.
The delivery of the centre - which will be known as the Irish Fashion Incubator Ltd - is a key plank of LIT’s €200m campus masterplan.
The college initially scoped out units in the Opera Centre site. But now it has turned its attention elsewhere.
Jimmy Browne, financial controller at LIT, stressed the project is not yet over the line, and may not be completed for a number of weeks.
But he said it will be a “key tool for the retention of fashion graduates in Limerick.”
“Our fashion graduates typically head abroad to large fashion houses, or to become part of bigger design organisations. The objective is to retain those graduates in Limerick and create employment directly from that.” He said the college looked at the old Instore Direct building because of its “strategic location”, close to the Opera Centre site, the Milk Market and the Limerick College of Art and Design’s George’s Quay campus.
Although LIT will not move into the Opera Centre site on this occasion, Mr Browne says they have not closed the door on having a presence there.
“There is clearly a strong wish to have higher education as pat of the usage of the Opera site. I would hope in keeping with the Limerick 2030 plan that LIT would be providing higher educational opportunities there,” he said.
If all the formalities of the purchase are completed, LIT will then have to apply to change the usage of the site.