MULTI-million euro plans to build a film studio at the former Dell factory in Castletroy cleared their final planning hurdle this week.
Work on fitting out the former factory will commence in January after metropolitan district councillors unanimously approved a change of use to the unit from an industrial building to a film facility – which will be run by Troy Studios.
Having purchased the building earlier this year, Limerick’s local authority have now leased it to Troy Studios on a long-term basis.
The scheme’s passage through the council – unanimously – has been hailed as a “marvellous” and “a really exciting step” by Limerick 2020 boss Mike Fitzpatrick.
And following reports Hollywood producers were scouting Limerick as a location for a big-budget movie earlier this year, Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan has said representatives of the Irish Film Board were in the city earlier this month to “work out how best the studio can be used”.
”It’s a huge project for Limerick,” she said, “The Irish film industry is going from strength to strength. One thing we are aware of is the need for studio space, and the need for the kind of back-up.”
She said Limerick has the graduates required to service such a studio, singling out talented students from the School of Art and Design.
Only last month, the council confirmed €1m was in place for the fit-out of the studio in its budget for 2016, while local authority chief executive Conn Murray has previously said he believes the overall scheme will bring a spin off of €70m to the local economy.
Mr Fitzpatrick said: “Who would have thought a couple of years ago that Limerick’s local authority would have been brave enough to make the decision to buy the building? It is really exciting step. It will be very exciting when the first production starts.”
He also pointed out the studio will be ready to open when the jury assessing Limerick’s bid to be Capital of Culture 2020 roll into town.
”So it will be great to be able to take them to that facility and show them it is something we have really invested in,” he added.
It was Fianna Fail councillor James Collins who proposed that the scheme be passed.
He said: “It brings a different industry to Limerick, different types of jobs we have not had in the past, in movies and digital media. It will also bring substantial employment in terms of the fit-out - there are tradesmen who will be required in January.”
Cllr Collins, a director of the council’s development arm Innovate Limerick, called on the authority to progress plans for a digital media hub at buildings around Cecil Street and the Dominican Church, saying: “We think it would dovetail into what we are doing in Troy Studios.”
Seconding the proposals, Cllr Michael Sheahan, Fine Gael, said: “Up to now, we have been concentrating on the high-end, high-tech jobs market.
”There is an opportunity for people with skills and trades in the general operative area to get work on a long-time basis. I know a lot of lads who are looking forward to getting jobs here.”
His party colleague, Cllr Michael Hourigan added: “We all know the type of employment which can be created around film. There is a lot of casual employment too, employment for young people. We have the sort of people which will fit into a film industry in the Mid-West.”
And councillor Daniel Butler – no doubt with an eye on the upcoming election – said the investment is “another sign of why it is so important to have a local minister in the form of Michael Noonan. ”It has led to a lot of investment in the city,” Cllr Butler added.
It is hoped the fit-out of Troy Studios will be complete by mid-way through 2016.