LOCAL politicians have given the thumbs up to multi-million euro plans to transform the city.
As exclusively revealed by this newspaper last week, the GVA economic plan is to transform seven parts of the city centre, including the Opera Centre site, the O’Connell Monument area, and the riverside areas.
There are hopes that the plan will see 1,000 extra people return to the city centre, with flats in the Georgian buildings.
And once unveiled, it will also propose tax incentives to encourage new businesses back into the city centre.
It is expected the money to execute the masterplan will come from a loan from the European Investment Bank.
One of the key recommendations is the proposed transformation of Cruises Street, with many of the empty shop units merging in the hopes bigger traders will come into the street.
Labour’s southside councillor Joe Leddin welcomed this measure.
He said: “[Cruises Street] may have been transformational 30 years ago, but the units are now just too small. Look at the former traders from there: Next has moved out of town for more square footage.”
Councillors were briefed on the contents of the masterplan last week, and southside Fine Gael councillor Ger Fahy said there is a need to ensure Limerick is sold better to a nationwide audience.
“Limerick has never been treated fairly or in a balanced way by national and international media. Unfortunately a majority of people around the country focus more on the negative issues in Limerick. They focus very little on positive issues in Limerick. It is very important there is a public awareness of the initiatives we are proceeding with, and those which will be initiated,” he said.
Northside Sinn Fein councillor Maurice Quinlivan urged local ministers Michael Noonan and Jan O’Sullivan to turn the vision into a reality.
“It is important we work towards a better Limerick. I would encourage the government to get behind this plan, and deliver the money needed,” he said.
County councillor Michael Sheahan particularly welcomed the further turning of the city to the river.
“There are fantastic tourism possibilities in this. If you look at the great cities, they are all linked to the river. We will see more of the river from the main street,” he explained.
Cllr Maria Byrne, the only businesswoman on Limerick City Council welcomed the “very positive” plan, but sounded a note of caution.
“Nothing will happen overnight. Some things will happen fairly quickly, other things will take longer. Different parts of the city will be being developed together. But there seems to be a positive reaction from the business community.”
She predicted Limerick will, over the next five years, become “a place that people will be watching.”
Ms O’Sullivan said the plan will give Limerick a footing to be able to “sell itself to the outside world.”
“It is a very ambitious plan. The fact the city and county are coming together gives Limerick the opportunity to have an edge.
“It is a very good time to be launching a plan for the city,” she added.
The Housing Minister said it is important the city has a “strong and coherent” trading centre.