Council of Europe Development Bank signs off on €85m loan for Limerick's Opera site

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Council CEO Conn Murray, Mayor Stephen Keary, CEB Governor Rolf Wenzel and David Conway CEO Limerick Twenty Thirty look over plans for the Opera site Pictures: Sean Curtin/True Media

Council CEO Conn Murray, Mayor Stephen Keary, CEB Governor Rolf Wenzel and David Conway CEO Limerick Twenty Thirty look over plans for the Opera site Pictures: Sean Curtin/True Media

THE Council of Europe Development Bank has formally signed off on contracts for an €85 million loan to fund the development of Limerick's Opera site.

Representatives of the bank and Limerick City and County Council put the formal seal on the financing arrangement this Wednesday, which, the authority said, now "effectively paves the way for the commencement of the €200 million project that will deliver state-of-the-art commercial/office, retail and cultural space in the heart of the city".

The €85m loan is matched by an existing commitment by the European Investment Bank, bringing to €170 million the total funding secured for the project.

The development of the 1.62 hectare landmark Opera site will "deliver an unprecedented social dividend for the city", the council said.

The authority says the site will be a "transformational project" for Limerick, that when fully developed site will be capable of employing up to 3,000 people across a 555,000 sq ft employment campus.

The official signing of the loan now paves the way for the development, with a planning application to An Bord Pleanála to follow a public consultation in the spring.

The project will be developed by Limerick Twenty Thirty - a special purpose vehicle tasked with planning and developing key strategic sites in Limerick city and county - over a six year period.

Limerick Council chief executive Conn Murray said: "From the moment we sat down with the CEB, we knew we were in a good place. Not alone has it become a key source of funding for a project that is going to play a pivotal role in regenerating our city, it is an institution that has the same social priorities as we have.

"The Opera Site is going to deliver an unprecedented social dividend for Limerick, which in ten years or so will stand out as a European model for how to rebuild urban economies."

Mayor of Limerick Cllr Stephen Keary said the funding for the development "will kick-start a whole new era of economic development in Limerick. This is the single most important development for Limerick as it will raise the entire economic and social standing of the city, with significant knock-on benefits for the region also.

"It will revitalise city centre trade, stimulate our property market and attract further investment to Limerick," he said.

Governor of the Council of Europe Bank, Dr Rolf Wenzel said, the "project ticked every box for us".

"As a development bank with an exclusively social mandate, we are eager to partner on projects that will deliver transformational benefits for cities," he said.

"The Opera Site project ticked every box for us in that regard. Given the numbers that will work there, it will be a catalyst for economic growth across Limerick, lifting all areas of the city, particularly those with higher levels of unemployment. It is the opportunity of a lifetime for this proud city and we are delighted to play our part in making that happen."

Denis Brosnan, Chairman of Limerick Twenty Thirty said the Opera development "illustrates the sense of ambition that typifies the Limerick of today".

- More to follow in the weekend editions of the Limerick Leader