James Godley, Denis Brosnan and Pat Daly in the Gardens Picture: Brian Arthur
WORK will begin this Tuesday morning on the Gardens International office development as part of a €17.6m contract, which has the potential to house 750 jobs when finished and support 150 jobs during construction.
Builders are due on site from tomorrow morning to complete the 100,000 sq ft development - the first of three major projects aiming to transform the inner city as part of the €500m Limerick Twenty Thirty project.
The Gardens’ contract was signed last week by JJ Rhatigan & Company builders and Limerick Twenty Thirty, which is the first special purpose vehicle of its kind in Ireland and was created by Limerick City and County Council to purchase and build strategic but unused key sites in the city.
The building will be completed by late 2018, Limerick Twenty Thirty has outlined.
Limerick Twenty Thirty Chairman Denis Brosnan said the Gardens development was "very important" for Limerick and the wider region.
"This will be the catalyst for a new era of growth for Limerick as this is the first in a wider programme that is going to transform Limerick into a dynamic living and working city capable of competing with the leading destinations in Europe for inward investment," he said.
"Limerick’s time has come and timing is a key aspect of this given the capacity constraints and competitive issues that other cities who want this type of investment have.
"It’s also timely from a Brexit perspective as Limerick, with high-end projects like this, will be the best placed and most competitive English speaking city in the EU for inward investment. We will have state-of-the-art space in a city that has been revitalised over the last three years or so but remains an extremely cost-effective location for operating international business in and from."
Formerly known as the Hanging Gardens, Limerick council bought the site to address the lack of grade A office space in the urban area, and to attract blue-chip multi-nationals.
There has already been strong interest in the building and council CEO Conn Murray said the Gardens site would "trigger a new wider programme of investment in infrastructure to bring that record period in Limerick to another level".
"Limerick is rejuvenated, it is attracting a lot of international attention and now we will be able to offer what FDI and indigenous investors mostly look for – inner city locations in a vibrant city where people can work and, indeed, live. This will be a landmark project for Limerick and in time we will look back on it as pivotal moment for the city and region," he explained.
Niall O'Callaghan, the IDA's regional manager, said last week that the body had been "marketing it vigorously for the last number of months in anticipation of its completion, and we’d certainly be optimistic once it is completed, it will deliver foreign direct investment for the city centre.”
Limerick council bought the site from Nama after the agency took it over from developer Robert Butler, who fell into financial difficulties during the recession.
The original plans would have seen retail space at ground level, and four floors of office accommodation over basement parking.
Conservation work has already taken place on the development, which is designed to be high spec, with a modern office feel dovetailing and entirely complementing the aesthetics of an architecturally significant building considered one of Limerick’s most unique.
The five-floor development will be suitable for a range of uses once completed.