An Taisce’s call for action over Limerick’s Georgian heritage

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

The former Bank Bar at 62 O'Connell Street. An Taisce says: 'This house contains a beautiful limestone Doric door case. Cast iron balconettes on the first floor [exist] with many of the original windows intact'. An Taisce adds: 'An appropriate use for this highly visible building should be found'
WITH many of the city centre’s buildings out of use, An Taisce has launched a campaign to renew some of its Georgian heritage.

WITH many of the city centre’s buildings out of use, An Taisce has launched a campaign to renew some of its Georgian heritage.

The heritage body has initiated a series of recommendations aimed at bringing vacant units back from the brink of dereliction.

In total, the group has surveyed 51 properties in the city centre - including 21 protected structures - and included a series of recommendations for their use.

The group recommends that vacant units in Mallow Street be used for residential or small scale commercial use.

Meanwhile, the out-of-use general post office building in Henry Street must be brought back into use as soon as possible.

Owners of units in Hartstonge Street, and others should be compelled by law to ensure buildings are maintained to an appropriate standard.

And the former Xtravision shop in Thomas Street could operate as a cafe or a bar.

Buildings in Cecil Street, O’Connell Street, Catherine Street and Nicholas Street were also surveyed by An Taisce.

The group’s cultural heritage officer Dave Whittle, who originally hails from Ballysimon, said now is the time to act to ensure buildings which are vacant, do not become derelict, and beyond repair.

“There is a huge amount of vacancy in Limerick, but there is not a lot of dereliction. A building can be empty for a number of years and beginning to deteriorate. But when a building is derelict, it might have been empty for 20 years: the roof has gone. People have stolen the windows and features: it is too late to be saved, all it is good for is to be bulldozed. A lot of buildings in Limerick are vacant, but are pushing into ‘too late’ territory,” he explained.

If buildings cannot be worked on on the medium term, one thing which should be done, Mr Whittle says, is to ensure their windows are sealed up.

“Once there is any bit of broken window, or a missing tile, this is when problems really begin to kick in. All it takes is for one bit of the elements to get in, then you are in serious trouble. It sounds obvious, but on any cold day when a window is open, any wet day, rain is getting in there: pigeons are getting in there,” Mr Whittle points out.

Although he is loathe to suggest any buildings are beyond help - “because then you are admitting defeat” - Mr Whittle says there are a number of cautionary tales of Georgian buildings no longer here.

Two of these would be the former Maternity Hospital in Bedford Row, and numbers 26 and 27 Cecil Street, which are now no longer standing.

Citing the former hospital, Mr Whittle says: “This might not look like much, but it was a really good quality Georgian building. If you take away the bleak-looking plasterwork, this was a really good quality red-brick building.” The hospital was replaced by a mostly new-build street in the centre of town.

Earlier this year, Finance Minister Michael Noonan launched the Living City initiative, which will provide tax incentives to encourage people to come back and live in Limerick’s historic building.

An Taisce has given a cautious welcome to this scheme, but expressed fear that the conditions are not sufficient for enough people to benefit.