Plans for the urban renewal of O'Connell Street
WE recently received the news that Limerick City and County Council has secured €4.5 million in EU funding, much of which will be spent to revitalise O’Connell Street from the Denmark Street junction as far as the Barrington Street junction.
The local authority will match fund the European grant resulting in approximately €8.2m worth of investment.
Talking to people on the street as well as local businesses there is some scepticism in relation to the news.
Some comment on the fact that they have heard it all before in various guises down through the years. Other are concerned at how plans will affect traffic movement, availability of parking and retail trade in the city centre.
Limerick is blessed to have one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture running through the heart of the city. In a fast changing world we are presented with a number of options.
Do we continue to treat our city as large town on the western periphery of Europe?
Do we ignore European best practice by continuing to treat the car as the major factor around which we design our city?
Or do we take the opportunity to be ambitious, to think creatively and to develop a plan that leads to the creation of a truly European city in terms of how we live, work and play.
Limerick was a city that in many ways missed out on the Celtic Tiger period of Irish history. At a time when a building boom was taking over the country our city centre suffered. All the talk was of the doughnut effect and large out-of-town retail developments causing a decline in our city centre.
In some senses we can now see this period as one that now presents us with huge opportunities.
Retail investment is now improving in the city. Investment is happening.
All the talk is of creating a city centre where job creation, living and smart, sustainable initiatives play a key role in the future development of the city.
The OECD claims that 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities by the year 2050.
Yet a recent Limerick Leader report highlighted the fact that the population of Limerick city centre has been in stagnation since the 1980s and has risen by just 1% since 2006.
Our key stakeholders are now committed to a plan that will make Limerick city the heart of a thriving region.
The fact we got things wrong in the past is exciting to me. We have a unique opportunity to take the many aspects of what makes a city thrive by day and night and to develop a plan where the Limerick of the future is a best practice example in a European context.
This may seem ambitious but why not be ambitious? The population of Ireland is expected to grow by over 400,000 by 2030. Imagine if Limerick city was to attract just 10% of this population growth?
The development of O’Connell St will play just one small part in the overall development of Limerick as a quality destination.
We are correct to keep a wary eye on how the plan develops but we must also be open to the challenge of doing things with ambition, creativity and with our children’s future in mind.
Keep building offices and companies will come
It was refreshing to read the latest figures released by the IDA which show the job creation that has been seen across the various Irish regions.
Foreign Direct investment is growing in all regions and that is contributing to the overall strong national performance.
Limerick saw a total of 40 site visits organised by the IDA in 2015 putting us pretty much on a par with Galway and Cork as the highest receivers of site visits outside of Dublin.
The job creation statistics for the Mid West region as delivered by the IDA show a total increase of 6.7%.
The recent opening by Uber in the city centre at Thomas Street as well as major investment from Regeneron and others puts us on firm footing for 2016 in terms of attracting further investment.
The priority now must be to complete or develop new turnkey office facilities in the city centre if we are to exploit the opportunities the IDA are presenting.