Bridget Ryan and Fidelis Yeung enjoy the urban garden in the city Picture: Adrian Butler
OVER the past two weeks, I have sat in Limerick’s Urban Garden on O’Connell Street and noted how the space is working.
For those of you who have yet to notice, this space is located just in front of Penney’s. A year ago it was a taxi rank, a depressing holding space for cars. It was grey. It was uninviting and lacked any sense of public realm imagination.
Over the past few months the space has been transformed. It is now a place where people sit to chat, to relax, to take a moment out of a busy day. The splash of colour throughout the space suggests a welcome. The food stalls are thriving, particularly on sunny days.
The space is not perfect by any means. We must remember that what has been achieved was done on a very limited budget.
However, what excites me is the fact that Limerick City and County Council took a risk in changing the use of this central location in the city.
Suddenly, with a little bit of imagination, we have managed to create something different and possibly unique in our city’s history.
When was the last time you saw someone sitting in that space over the past few decades? I remember the same space as a bus stop during my schooldays almost 20 years ago.
Prior to that it was part of a two-way traffic system. The history of the space is dominated by the car, the bus and the taxi. Allow a creative approach and the future of the space can be determined as radically different.
As with all changes to the status quo there will be those with individual opinions that may go against the vision set out for spaces such as the Urban Garden.
There will be those who object to foodstalls. There will be people who complain about the potential for anti-social behaviour.
There will be those who hate the happy sounds of buskers on the streets.
Limerick has a fantastic opportunity to be different. We have a creative community and a young demographic who have a sense of what a city should be about.
If the Urban Garden on O’Connell Street does anything, it proves that we can try something different without the world coming to an end.
In 2014 as we prepared for the Granny’s visit an antique safe appeared out of nowhere, seemingly having landed on a car on O’Connell Street. Immediately that morning people took photos. They stopped and wondered what in the name of God had happened. Social media went wild and national news portals picked up on the story.
The idea was so simple but the results were widespread.
We should now use the momentum seen with the Urban Garden idea to research best practice urban initiatives that give a sense of place and a spirit of fun and welcome to cities around the world.
A city should not just be about traffic and shopping and drink. It should be a special place that exudes a sense of welcome, fun and innovation.
We are on the right track and I hope the momentum keeps going.
Cultural institution in Spotlight
I WAS delighted to see Spotlight Stage School celebrate their 30 years in Limerick recently.
The stage school, run by Judy O’Connor and Margaret Hough, is one of a number of such schools that have inspired so many young people to develop a love for the performing arts.
I was student of Pearl Kiely and May O’Halloran for many years. Over that period, I formed many close bonds with young people from across Limerick with similar interests.
The work done by the likes of Judy, Mags, Pearl, May, Gerdi McGlynn and more recently Jean McGlynn along with many others is a vital part of the community in Limerick.
Over the years these dedicated teachers have nurtured local youths to play a role in the cultural life of Limerick. Many have gone on to work professionally and many others have in some way had their lives changed by the spirit of teamwork and confidence these schools promote.
I wish all the Limerick stage schools continued success and acknowledge the great work they do to help drive Limerick as a centre of Irish culture.
Cook’s commitment to Limerick
THE recent announcement by Cook Medical of its intention to create another 40 jobs at the Limerick facility is not only good news on the jobs front but is a solid commitment by this company to Limerick and its future.
Every job created locally is vital to the region and it is important to note that Cook has added 200 people over the past two years.
The 40 new vacancies are in the areas of IT, engineering, data protection, manufacturing, marketing and customer service.
Over the past 20 years, the Limerick facility has evolved from a small-scale manufacturing and technology site, into a multi-disciplinary business and a hub for Cook Medical’s global operations.
Cook Medical recently lodged a planning application with Limerick City and County Council to develop a new facility at the National Technology Park on O’Halloran Road. The application consists of a new three storey facility including office space and a data centre on the 2.7-hectare site opposite its current headquarters.
We cannot underestimate how much having companies like Cook located in Limerick can impact on our potential to attract further FDI.