WORK has started on a €4m project to build a 44-bedroom budget hotel opposite the Mid-Western Regional Hospital.
In a move which could create up to 70 jobs, two houses neighbouring the Unicorn Bar are being demolished, and the owner of the complex Bryan Greene said he hopes construction will kick off next year.
He estimates up to 50 people will be employed in building the new hotel, which is expected to take up to a year.
The Greene family secured planning permission earlier this year for a hotel development on lands beside the bar, a move which will double its workforce to 40 front-line staff.
According to the proposals, 44 bedrooms will be built, while the restaurant in the bar will be extended to cater for increased trade.
The current entrance to the bar will double as a check-in area for guests.
Some 98 car parking spaces will be made available, with 73 of these underground.
Once the demolition of the houses is complete shortly, Mr Greene says the land will be flattened and used as car parking for the extra people expected to attend both the bar, and St Paul’s Church opposite this Christmas.
It is hoped the proposed hotel’s location - opposite the Mid-Western Regional Hospital - will ensure its economic success.
But many members of the local community have opposed the development, citing concerns about noise and traffic, as well as the over-supply of hotel beds in Limerick.
Limerick County Council had given the development the green light.
But it was appealed to An Bord Pleanala, which in turn also approved the project.
This came despite the advice of their own inspector that the project be refused.
Local Fine Gael councillor Leo Walsh welcomed the start of construction.
“It is nice to see it going ahead. It is so close to the regional hospital, so it is nice to have a facility there is someone needs to stay overnight after visiting sick relatives,” he said, “I would wish Mr Greene every success with the project.”