Once upon a time: Limerick's Nicholas Street still has a story to tell

Nigel Dugdale's City View

Nigel Dugdale

Reporter:

Nigel Dugdale

Once upon a time: Limerick's Nicholas Street still has a story to tell

Once Upon A Time: Ann Sullivan's former premises on Nicholas Street - which is for sale

I HAD not heard of Ann Sullivan until last weekend. On a stroll through the city I found myself standing on Nicholas Street. In front of me stood a sad looking building.

The name above the door reads ‘Once Upon a Time’ – an ironic and somewhat tragic reminder of the street’s vibrant past.

Ann Sullivan was an antique dealer. She was a key player in the development of Shannon Airport’s duty free with Brendan O’Regan. She was based for a time on 5th Avenue in New York.

After her death in 2014, the Irish Times published a moving tribute to Sullivan reminding readers that “here was, in fact, a renowned dealer with a client list that ranged from Hollywood stars to the White House and who dealt on a first-name basis with the cream of New York society”.

Sullivan eventually settled on Nicholas Street. Today her former business premises lies idle, a for sale sign pinned to the walls.

I have a vague recollection as a child being brought to Nicholas Street to get pictures framed. I remember a street that once had a sense of life, a hustle bustle of activity in the centre of the city.

Last Sunday as I walked the length of the street sentimentality slowly turned to anger. 

I felt a genuine sense of grief, a mourning for the loss of a part of our city’s history.

Don’t get me wrong – Nicholas Street hasn’t disappeared. However, what remains feels dead. It feels unloved. It feels neglected and forgotten.

What other city in the world would allow its oldest street, a street that links its two most historic sites, fall into the state of disrepair that Nicholas Street currently finds itself?

When I returned to Limerick seven years ago one of the first civic gatherings I attended was a meeting of concerned citizens. We discussed Nicholas Street. Ideas were proffered. There was a real sense of anger in the room.

As is always the case in debates to do with cities, it was the Council who were blamed for Nicholas Street’s woes. I left that meeting asking myself what responsibility lay with the actual owners of buildings on the street.

Seven years on it could be argued that the street is in an even worse place. Despite a few licks of paint on the boarded up former shop fronts nothing has happened.

What is interesting, however, is that over the course of those seven years Shannon Heritage has invested heavily in the King John’s Castle offer. A multi-million-euro redevelopment of the attraction resulted in the castle doubling its visitor numbers in 2014.

Since then Shannon Heritage have invested heavily in opening the Castle not just as a visitor attraction but as centre for events. 

From major music gigs in the courtyard to German beerfests and Christmas experiences King John’s Castle has become a destination not just for international tourists but for locals and visitors from across Ireland.

At the other end of the street you find St Mary’s Cathedral, a cluster of riverside bistros and gastropubs and the Hunt Museum.

Anyone who visits the Castle will come across a scaled model of the medieval Nicholas Street showing how it would have looked in its heyday. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that, with a little bit of creativity, this street has the potential to be one of the country’s most interesting tourism destinations.

Once Upon a Time is no more on Nicholas Street, but the story is still waiting to be told.

Virgin Media roll out new jobs

I was delighted to see the announcement of a network expansion programme by Vigin Media last week that is set to boost the local economy and help support a brighter digital future for Mid-West businesses.

The company confirmed that 120 new jobs are being created at its National Customer Experience Centre at Roxboro, bringing staff numbers to 400.

In a further major boost to the local economy, Virgin is also expanding its superfast fibre broadband network for homes and businesses in the region.

The jobs are being created directly and together with partner Sitel with all new positions based in Virgin's high-tech Customer Experience Centre in Roxboro.

The new positions are being filled immediately and are all full time, including customer care specialists handling billing and sales plus a number of specialist back office finance roles. 

Virgin Media have also confirmed they will expand their network footprint in the mid-west region with a plan to connect 10,000 more homes and businesses to their superfast broadband network when the upgrade is completed.

Shannon Bureau sees an impact

At this year’s annual business report meeting, The Shannon Region Conference and Sports Bureau announced that in 2016 it supported business and sports events worth in excess of €7,000,000 to the economy of the region, a substantial slice of the national Business & Events Tourism pie. 

The Shannon Region moves confidently into 2017 with a number of business tourism events already confirmed for the year ahead worth in excess of €500,000.

The Bureau's remit is to promote the Shannon Region as a location for business and sports tourism and offer an entirely free service to event organisers and local ambassadors to help increase Clare and Limerick region's share of the lucrative international business and sports tourism market.

Hundreds of ambassadors have been actively working with the Bureau in recent years to help attract thousands of people to the region through a range of business and sports events.