LIMERICK City Council is set to change the zoning on the former Dunnes Stores store in Sarsfield Street to prevent retail there.
One of the key planks of the Limerick 2030 plan will see the store – closed in 2008 – knocked and replaced with an “iconic city building” on the waterfront.
One possible use is a Diaspora Centre, with a joint bid being put together by the Shannon Airport Authority and Limerick City and County Council.
But Dunnes Stores has hit back, saying it still owns the site, and “forms part of plans for future retail use”.
Since Dunnes closed its Sarsfield Street and O’Connell Street stores, they have been out of use, save for a Santa’s Grotto being located there in recent years. But this year, Santa has moved out to the Jetland SC meaning the massive Sarsfield Street store will remain out of use.
In a bid to solve the impasse, the council will, in its next City Development Plan, rezone the land as non-retail, effectively preventing any attempt by Dunnes to open the site as a commercial entity.
In a formal submission to the Limerick 2030 plan, Dunnes added it was “disappointed” not to have been consulted in respect of its premises.
But economic director Tom Enright has insisted the retail giant was consulted.
“We did consult them. Before we finalised the plan, we met people from Dunnes Stores in Dublin. They welcomed the plans to try and revitalise the city, and redevelop some of the centre. They were happy to see the positive changes,” he said.
He said he feels it is a “shame” that Dunnes Stores is not, he feels, willing to negotiate on the empty units.
“I think it is a shame that one of the largest retailers in the country that has two units idle in the city centre, and do not want to use them, does not rent it to someone who does want to use them. [The Sarsfield Street store] is very unsightly,” Mr Enright added.
Limerick City Council has issued a derelict site notice on Dunnes Stores’ two closed city branches, which has forced them to at least keep the buildings clean, and free from graffiti.
As for the future, Mr Enright said he has heard nothing from Dunnes, despite the disclosure in the submission.
“They haven’t approached us in relation to their future use of this site for the last five years. If they have any ideas, we would love to hear from them.”
“They have a large store there: if we want to make progress with the city centre, to revitalise it, the likes of Dunnes need to play a big part.”
Dunnes were not available for further comment.