LIMERICK Chamber has cautiously welcomed the announcement that Limerick has been designated for a new pilot initiative to regenerate Georgian cities.
Maria Kelly, chief executive officer of Limerick Chamber, said they have long been calling for a tax incentive scheme to allow for the redevelopment of the city’s Georgian stock. However, they believe the pilot should be more open and not just restricted to owners or occupiers of Georgian buildings.
While the objective of the initiative is to get more people living in the city, they believe that restricting the incentives to just owner/occupiers could restrict the desired impact, as the cost and scale of the refurbishment required could be out of the reach of many families.
“We need incentives that allow Georgian buildings to be refurbished into prime office space and high quality living spaces. This will result in not only preserving our Georgian heritage but also bringing life into that part of the city again,” said Ms Kelly.
Minister for Housing and Planning, Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan, said that under the scheme retail units that upgrade their shops will be able to claim tax allowances, and there is also a provision to encourage people to live in historic buildings. Minister O’Sullivan said it will complement the existing Regeneration programme, and she believes it will succeed in delivering investment and jobs to Limerick.
“Despite recent retail losses, such as HMV, I was greatly encouraged by the recent Limerick Chamber of Commerce report which demonstrated that retail vacancy rates in the core city centre area had decreased. The report was optimistic about retail prospects in 2013 and this scheme will undoubtedly assist that,” she said.
The pilot plan is initially aimed at Limerick and Waterford city, which are regarded as having the highest levels of deprivation in the country.
In its report on this project, the Department of Finance cites Limerick city as having a deprivation figure of -6.66 for 2011, the lowest in the country, a population change of -4.5%, also the lowest, and the largest unemployment rate for any Irish city, at 28.6%.
With the assistance of the Limerick local authority, specific Georgian residential areas have been identified as being suitable for inclusion in the pilot scheme.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan had been examining these proposals since last year, and said he was particularly concerned about the Patrick Street/Rutland Street area - the site of the Opera Centre retail development, which was purchased from NAMA by Limerick City Council with the help of central government last year.
The report notes that successive Governments have recognised that “Limerick has its own unique problems”.
“While it is vital to redevelop the housing estates, this will achieve little if the city centre ceases to be vibrant and self-sustaining. As the population of Limerick city centre is currently estimated to be less than 2,000 people, many dwellings lie vacant.
“The project is dependent on EU State Aid approval.
“There will be a requirement for a certain amount of work to be completed before the work will be eligible for tax relief. The cost of such refurbishment must be at least 10% of the value of the property prior to those works, in order for the relief to be claimed.”