LIMERICK City and County Council has reached a deal to buy the old Dell building in Castletroy – a 350,000 square foot facility that it hopes to develop into a major film and television production studio in tandem with Ardmore Studios.
While discussions with Ardmore are continuing and are expected to be finalised this week, the local authority has confirmed that it has agreed a deal to buy the building from owner PJ Noonan for a figure in the region of €5-6m.
The council said it was acquiring the building in Plassey “as part of its strategy for infrastructural development”.
“It is proposed that the building will house a major international media hub to facilitate the production of film and television content and to provide support services,” said a spokesperson.
The local authority “remains in discussions” with Ardmore Studios, for the provision of much needed studio infrastructure for the Mid-West, it said.
Limerick CEO Conn Murray said the purchase of the property - which is approximately 25 acres in size with 7.5 acres of development land available and 750 car spaces - was “an important step in the local authority’s plan to create an international film centre and major sustainable employment in Limerick”.
“Our discussions with Ardmore Studios are continuing at pace since we first announced that we were working together late last year,” Mr Murray said.
“We’re delighted that subject to finalising details, we have agreed terms on the purchase of the former Dell building in Plassey. The purchase of this building is the first step in our strategy to create major studio facilities in Limerick.
“The next part of the process is to finalise our discussions with Ardmore Studios. We have been encouraged by the response to this initiative,” he added.
The Castletroy facility - formerly home to both Wang and Dell - was known as the Culture Factory last year during City of Culture when it was leased by the council for the year and played host to huge shows such as Fuerza Bruta.
The 350,000 square foot industrial unit is viewed as ideal for a film or television production studio, given its size and adaptability, including a High Bay area that features 15m high ceilings and 70,000 square feet of space.
It is also understood that the fact that it is not located underneath a flight path is advantageous for film production. It is understood that plans are already in place to remove several of the steel struts located around the building.
The plans could lead to the creation of upwards of 700 jobs in the area.
Mr Murray said he was “hopeful” that the purchase of the building will lead to major sustainable employment and the creation of a new film industry in Limerick.
“There is a clear and urgent demand for large scale studio space and support buildings in Ireland, and many of the pre-conditions necessary for the creation of studios already exist in Limerick,” he said.
“It is evident that success is based on government support, direct investment and commitment given to the vision of those involved. We hope that this is just the start of a project which will create a new industry and a huge number of jobs locally. It’s also a logical legacy of Limerick’s year as National City of Culture 2014 and its bid to become European Capital of Culture for 2020.”
Finance minister Michael Noonan, who was a prime mover in the deal to set up the studio at the former Dell production facility, confirmed to this newspaper that he had “recently met with a US film company who are interested in using the old Dell plant as a film location”.
“While the building may need some modifications, its scale and location make it generally suitable for filming of large scale projects,” he said.
“In the last Budget I expanded the tax incentives for film and television production. The changes have had the desired effect and have been welcomed by the industry with US film companies are seeing Ireland as a suitable and cost effect filming location. I will keep the relief under review ahead of the next Budget and if I can make further improvements, I will do so,” he added.
Hollywood film producers - including Philip Lee, a producer on the Dark Knight and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - have visited Limerick recently on a number of occasions to scout locations for the purposes of shooting a $120m budget film here.
The warehouse in Castletroy never reached the open market, with owner PJ Noonan privately meeting interested parties to view it, including a high profile film production studio in the UK and one of the major multi-nationals already located in Limerick visiting it in recent months.
Mr Noonan was known to be keen to see the building used to create employment in the region.
The local authority, through its company Innovate Limerick, which has been actively marketing Limerick as a film location, worked on completion of the deal in recent days.
The collaborative plans between Ardmore and the council to build a major studio in the area are expected to be finalised this week. The Limerick facility dwarfs the space currently available to Ardmore in its Bray home.
Ardmore CEO Siún Ní Raghallaigh confirmed to this newspaper in mid-March that she was engaged in a “continuous process and one that is developing positively” with the local authority on the plans, which would have a massive economic impact on the region.