APPROVAL for a €100 million loan from the European Investment Bank should accelerate plans by the University of Limerick to invest €224 million in Plassey, at University Hospital Limerick and - crucially - in the city centre.
Just how much of the gold dust is to be sprinkled in the city centre remains to be worked out but UL president Prof Don Barry underlined his institution’s commitment to playing its part in the regeneration of the heart of Limerick.
“My dream is that in a few years’ time, there will be hundreds of students of the university participating in the life of the city, learning in the city, recreating in the city and contributing to the revitalisation of the Limerick city centre. Limerick is our city and we are its university,” he said.
It remains unclear whether that presence will be in the dilapidated Opera Centre quarter, the option favoured by the site’s owners, Limerick City Council. That level of detail would have to be worked out with the EIB and other potential investors, Prof Barry said.
University Hospital Limerick will also see significant capital works with the development of a new centre for clinical research.
And the UL campus itself will see new “research facilities, teaching facilities and student facilities”, Prof Barry said, while it was also the plan to significantly upgrade facilities for Munster Rugby following the club’s recent decision to make UL its permanent training base.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan revealed that loan approval from the European Investment Bank had come at a meeting in Luxembourg last Tuesday attended by John Moran, secretary general of the Department of Finance and a native of Mungret, who was put on the bank’s board of directors by Minister Noonan.
The minister expressed his delight that the EIB had given its backing to three projects close to his heart - the continued development of UL and the region’s biggest hospital and the regeneration of Limerick city centre.
Ahead of a more substantial announcement on its five-year capital plan later this year, Prof Barry said it would now leverage the €100 million loan secured from the EIB to seek government funding and philanthropic support to fund the €224 million investment.