Summer planning bid for Limerick's Opera Centre site

Council boss Conn Murray confirms timeline for development

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Summer planning bid for Limerick's Opera Centre site

Council CEO Conn Murray speaking at a previous Opera site briefing

LIMERICK council boss Conn Murray has confirmed an application to redevelop the Opera Centre site will be made “in June or July” this year.

And the 500,000 square feet site in Patrick Street will be home to “a world class city office campus” which will make it easier for the IDA and other agencies to “market Limerick”.

The news of a timeline for a public application to develop the site will come as a relief to many in the city’s business community, who had grown frustrated at the delays on the €150m project which forms the centrepeice of the Limerick 2030 renewal scheme.

Separately, the council chief executive also pledged “considerable advancement” at the Gardens International site on Henry Street for the delivery of another “world class facility that will be open for up to 400 to 500 jobs in the heart of the city”.

Once slated to be a shopping centre, the Opera Centre site has lain largely idle since the 2008 crash, but the local authority bought the land in 2011.

And in early 2015, €150m plans were confirmed which would see the city’s third level colleges collaborate on a third level campus, alongside a mix of office, retail and residential uses.

Speaking at the launch of Invest Limerick, a council-led initiative promoting inward investment into the city, Mr Murray, the Chief Executive of Limerick City and County Council, confirmed: “There will be a planning application before our authority in June or July with an ambitious world-class city office campus of 500,000 square feet, I hope making it easier to market for you when you go out there to actually sell [our city].”

There had been calls for quicker action on both the Gardens and Opera Centre sites, with many highlighting the lack of office space in the centre as a stumbling block to more jobs.

However, there are strong indications the flow of IDA-backed jobs will continue to the city.

The Opera Centre site, the council has previously claimed, could bring up to 3,000 jobs – while hundreds more could be located in offices on Henry Street.

Also addressing the event, Martin Shanahan, the chief executive of IDA Ireland said Limerick and the surrounding region was “the fastest growing region from a foreign direct investment perspective”.

“We as an agency have extremely ambitious targets. Between 2015 and 2019, we have to create 80,000 new jobs. There are other targets, but perhaps the most significant from our perspective is increasing regional investment by 30% to 40% in all regions. Thankfully I can say, the Mid-West and Limerick is leading the way in that regard,” Mr Shanahan said.

Limerick brought a net increase of 1,415 jobs in 2016, a “phenomenal performance”, Mr Shanahan added.

Meanwhile, Mayor Kieran O’Hanlon has indicated that the council may add the Texan city of Austin to its trade mission to Boston, set to take place this summer.

He said with Limerick-based firms including Dell EMC, Trusource and Flextronics, hailing from the Lone Star state, a visit there cannot be ruled out.

“These companies have made homes in Limerick, so why not travel to Austin to see if other companies might like to join them here,” he told the audience at the Savoy Hotel.

“It’s all about internationalising Limerick.”