LIMERICK City Council is to bring in a new incentive scheme for retailers early in 2011 which it hopes will breathe new life into the city centre.
City manager Tom Mackey said grants would be available for those occupying vacant units while Mayor Maria Byrne said those setting up shop in the heart of the city in the coming months could benefit from lower rates bills.
At a rate of around 25 per cent, Limerick has the highest retail vacancy rates of any major city in Ireland. McGovern's menswear on William Street, which is to close its doors on January 22 after almost 50 years in business, is the latest in a long line of casualties.
Mr Mackey said City Hall now intends making grants available provided the shops are "desirable" and would not displace existing retailers.
"The legalities have not been fully worked out," Mayor Byrne said, "but we are looking at bringing in reduced rates and other incentives.
"Obviously if you have a shoe shop, for example, Limerick City Council would not be in favour of giving incentives to another shoe shop to open up next door to you and existing businesses will be given every consideration."
"We will do everything we can legally do to find a way of encouraging businesses to set up in the city centre and reduce vacancy rates. I believe there are currently 39 vacant (retail) buildings in the city centre."
Mayor Byrne said there had been some more encouraging signs for city retailers in the latter half of 2010.
"Since I was elected mayor, I have opened five new businesses and I have to open another one in the city centre later this month," she said.
Meanwhile, the IDA's regional manager said there was significantly more interest in Limerick from overseas investors last year than in 2009.
The number of site visits here had increased from 19 to 31, said Sean Denver. Three IDA-backed projects are to be announced here in 2011.