IT WILL be years before the Opera Centre site is built, the Mayor of Limerick has said, but work has begun on the city’s most anticipated project.
Funds of up to €1m have now been made available for the preservation of historic buildings at the site, with scaffolding erected over the weekend.
Mayor Jim Long said the immediate intention is to make buildings secure and “to avert another Nicholas Street”, after a building on that street collapsed last year.
“There will be no demolition just yet, but this is the start of a long project. There are plenty of boxes to be ticked, but we are making slow and positive progress,” said the Mayor.
Whilst he was reluctant to give a timeline for the development, he said it certainly wouldn’t be completed in 2014.
The mayor said certain key players need to get on board to make the development a reality, but was buoyed by the announcement of President Don Barry, of the University of Limerick, at the weekend, who reasserted their desire to have a more visible presence in the city.
Labour councillor Tom Shortt said the scaffolding erected certainly caught the attention of passing motorists, who slowed down to examine what works were taking place. He said this is indicative of the appetite from the public to see work begun on this site, once described as the country’s “biggest eyesore” in terms of abandoned developments.
“It is a welcome development that having completed a survey, council officials have now secured €1m in funding to carry out an immediate programme of conservation and maintenance works designed to stop the decay of the historic buildings on the site.”
“While negotiations continue concerning the appropriate development of the site, this is a significant conservation step and I expect that any architectural plans drawn up will incorporate the refurbished Georgian architecture, preserving the heritage value of that area in line with other successful redevelopment projects in the city,” said Councillor Shortt.