Kevin Kenneally, architect and Maurice O’Connell, ACC chairman, at the old convent in Abbeyfeale
AN ambitious plan to develop a world-class technology and enterprise hub in an old convent building in County Limerick at a cost of over €3.5m has been given a boost.
Eircom confirmed earlier this month that can supply a 1gb fibre broadband line to the Abbeyfeale premises, according to Maurice O’Connell, the chairman of the Abbeyfeale Community Council (ACC) which is driving the project.
“This is absolutely critical to what we want to do,” Mr O’Connell said, explaining that with that level of broadband capacity, the Abbeyfeale hub would be on a par with other hubs world-wide.
The Enterprise and Technology Hub is the flagship project of the Abbeyfeale Community Council which was set up only last year. Earlier this year, the community council successfully reached agreement with the Limerick and Clare Education Training Board on a lease on the building and followed this up with a technical and feasibility report of the building itself.
That report, according to Mr O’Connell, was positive and concluded that the main section of the building could be saved. “It is suitable for a technology and enterprise hub because hi-fibre broadband is directly outside the door. And if we get the funds of about €3.5m to turn it around, then we can bring in between 100 and 150 high-end jobs to Abbeyfeale,” he said.
Already, plans for transforming the building have been drawn up and the community council hopes to submit them for planning permission next Spring.
Meanwhile, they will go on display at a special public meeting to take place next Thursday, December 28 in the Glórach Theatre, starting at 7pm.
“We are going to show people the research and the proposed plans for the building,” Mr O’Connell said.
And he explained that they had deliberately called the meeting during the Christmas holidays to facilitate people who are living away from Abbeyfeale or abroad. “There is an increased amount of interest from people who have moved away,” Mr O’Connell said. And he was optimistic that once up and running, local people with business interests abroad would consider setting up in or operating from Abbeyfeale. “This would be a golden opportunity,” he said.
There is a range of options contained in the plans, Mr O’Connell explained. It could house an anchor tenant on its own, or be home to a number of companies and businesses, he said.
But the plans also have a community dimension including a multi-functional community events hall, that will deliver to the needs of all groups of all ages. “There is a growing population in Abbeyfeale and a growing demand for space for youth activities,” Mr O’Connell said. An interpretive cum heritage centre which would showcase the town’s cultural wealth and which would attract both domestic and international visitors is also included in the plan.
Members of the public are urged to come along to the meeting on Thursday, December 28, starting at 7pm and to make their views known.
Once the plans are finalised, the search will begin for funds to make them a reality. “Abbeyfeale as a community is not getting the level of funding it should be getting as the second largest town in the county,” Mr O’Connell said. In 2018, the Community Council intends and hopes to change that for the better.
The Sisters of Mercy first came to Abbeyfeale in 1871 and opened a national school and a secondary school at Convent St. In 2011, the secondary school Scoil Iosaf amalgamated with St Ita’s Secondary School and the Vocational School in a new college campus now known as Coláiste Ide agus Iosaf.