NEW plans have been lodged for the €100m Parkway Valley site in Limerick which will result in a bigger Marks and Spencer store than was previously imagined and could potentially result in 2,000 jobs.
A year after Marks and Spencer was confirmed as anchor tenant for the renamed Horizon Mall, developer Suneil Sharma has outlined plans to transform the site, which “lies as a monument to past excesses and failures”.
Mr Sharma - a former investor in the now abandoned Opera Centre project in the city - is seeking to amend the planning permission he holds with Limerick City and County Council to reduce the size and scale of the Dublin Road development from 73,142 square metres to 63,712 square meres, with its height knocked down by nine metres to 33m.
Two anchor tenants will remain - one being Marks and Spencer’s largest store outside Dublin - as well as 37 smaller outlets, down from 75 units when the project was first mooted.
Twelve restaurants are also being proposed, alongside a leisure centre and crèche.
The project will now incorporate two-storeys of retail, as opposed to the three levels initially planned back in 2006.
On top of this, Mr Sharma is seeking to build a public library, and link the shopping centre to a “state of the art play park”.
“The project represents one of the largest ever private sector investments in the Limerick area, and will create 1,500 retail jobs and 500 construction jobs,” he said.
“Horizon Mall’s strategic location has already generated interest from international retail brands, many of which would not otherwise consider locating in Limerick.”
Marks and Spencer were initially slated to take 70,000 square feet of retail space - but that has now risen to 100,000 square feet.
“We are involved in very positive discussions with other major retail brands and will be making further announcements about this in the weeks and months ahead,” added the Belfast-based developer.
With the Parkway Valley one of the most talked about applications in recent years, this development is sure to spark a huge debate. Granted before strategies were put in place to protect the city centre, many feel it poses a threat to the urban area’s viability.
In 2011, when Mr Sharma sought to extend his 2006 permission for another five years, the then County Council sought legal advice before it concluded it had no alternative but to grant an extension.
It remains to be seen what the local authority’s response will be to this latest proposal.
For his part, Mr Sharma says the project will bring over €35m in disposable income to the region.
He says he will support an employment training scheme designed to maximise local recruitment, with a focus on the long term unemployed.
There has already been dialogue with the unions he said, “to ensure a large jobs dividend for those unemployed”, particularly from the regeneration communities and those on state training programmes.