'A no-brainer': Call for housing to be part of Limerick's €150m Project Opera

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Project Opera is going to dominate the Limerick city skyline - but should there be provision for housing?

Project Opera is going to dominate the Limerick city skyline - but should there be provision for housing?

LIMERICK Twenty Thirty has been urged to revise its €150m Project Opera plans and include scope for residential living in the development.

Politicians, homeless charities, auctioneers and business people have all united on the need for there to be purpose built housing in the flagship project of the Limerick 2030 plan, which is aimed at regenerating the city.

At present, the project will see vacant land at Patrick Street occupied by four skyscraper office blocks – but no living spaces.

This comes in spite of early plans for the site which included plans for accommodation for some of Limerick’s third level students.

Now, with Ireland’s housing crisis at an acute level, Limerick Twenty Thirty – the special purpose vehicle set up by the council to redevelop huge tracts of land in the centre – has been called on to step in.

Auctioneer Tom Crosse says putting accommodation in Project Opera is a “no brainer”, while businessman James Ryan said it would bring a “morning buzz, a daytime buzz and an evening buzz” to the city.

However, Cllr James Collins, a board member of Limerick Twenty Thirty said it was not the company’s role to “rebuild the whole city”.

“We’re there as a catalyst to kick-start the market. What we’re doing is reacting to the lack of suitable office space,” he said.

Councillors will decide on the multi-million euro plans, which it is hoped will deliver 3,000 jobs, at a vote at a meeting in October.

And Solidarity councillor Cian Prendiville said his party will be seeking to amend the planning application to include some units of housing – and will be launching a petition in the hope of persuading fellow members to do likewise.

”We only need 11 [councillors] to support proposals for quality affordable accommodation in the plans. If enough people make formal submissions, and get on to their councillors, we can bring huge pressure to bear and ensure we don’t miss this opportunity to breathe new life into the centre and tackle the housing crisis,” he said.

Una Burns of homelessness charity Novas confirmed it would be making a submission seeking just this.

She said: “We fundamentally believe any economic development and growth is underpinned by a very functional and stable housing, health and educational platform. It’s very evident in Limerick we do not have a vibrant and stable housing programme. The situation is deteriorating all the time.”

Mr Crosse added: “I am at a loss as to why they’re not including accommodation there. We need people in the city to have it back up and running. There are opportunities to refurbish Georgian buildings, but the cost is prohibitive. So I would think purpose-built accommodation is a no-brainer.”

Mr Ryan said retailers in the city would welcome apartments being built into the Project Opera development.

He said: “It’s like a race to get out of the city at 5.30pm. If people were living here, they might stroll to the pub for a pint. They might buy a new shirt or tie from Brown Thomas. We need more housing.”

But Cllr Collins added: “I think people have overestimated the spec and the role of Limerick Twenty Thirty.”