LIMERICK City and County Council has announced this Tuesday that it has created a post for a dedicated city centre revitalisation manager to spearhead a programme to help redress challenges to the retail sector.
This follows on from last week's annoucement that the €180 million Opera Centre Development has received planning consent and development work will commence later this year, as will re-development work on O’Connell Street.
The appointment is one aspect of a range of measures being adopted by Limerick City and County Council to trigger the revitalisation of the city centre to increase city centre footfall meeting head-on challenges from online retailing and out of town shopping.
Redline medium priorities for the programme will include the delivery of the Opera project, the upgrade of O’Connell Street and other streets, as well as the UL City Centre campus.
However, Limerick City and County Council today outlined a series of short-term measures, among them the appointment of a dedicated City Centre Revitalisation Manager to work with all stakeholders within the city centre and in the local authority to drive a programme of activities to encourage more people to visit the city centre and more retail units to open.
Said Mayor of the City and County of Limerick Cllr Michael Sheahan: “City and town centres across Ireland and beyond face very significant challenges due to online retailing and the development of shopping complexes on the outskirts of the town. Our city centre has a special appeal here in Limerick, and we as a local authority have to support its development and encourage it to thrive to face these challenges. This plan will focus on exactly that, bringing vibrancy back into the city centre and raising its profile.”
Vincent Murray, Director of Service for Economic Development with Limerick City and County Council said: “The rolling out of this city centre plan is a declaration of intent by Limerick City and County Council regarding its plans to revitalise the city centre. A number of transformational projects will come on stream in the city centre, such as the Opera Site, the UL campus and the O’Connell Street re-development. However, these are in the medium term and we’ve identified a range of short-term measures that we intend to take, that’s what this plan is all about.
“Not only have we those iconic projects on the horizon but we’ve just launched a dynamic new brand proposition, Limerick: Atlantic Edge, European Embrace, for the first time to attract more investment and people here. It’s essential, therefore, that we have a city centre that reflects that ambition and this plan will help deliver with both short and medium term initiatives.”
The CEO of Limerick Chamber, Dee Ryan, has welcomed today’s announcement by Limerick City and County Council of a range of measures to be taken on the revitalization of the city centre in response to current challenges.
Ms Ryan said that while the city centre will undergo an unprecedented programme of investment over the next five years, there is a need for an immediate short-term plan to support businesses to attract more footfall.
“We are at the start of an unprecedented period of investment in our city. The Chamber has a vision for a thriving urban experience in Limerick and that’s why we put huge effort into supporting plans for the O’Connell Street Development to get it across the line, as well as supporting the Opera Site development at the An Bord Pleanála oral hearing before Christmas.
“We’re also fully behind the UL city centre campus development and multi-million euro private investments that will animate the city centre, such as the International Rugby Experience, the Kirkland Development recent planning success at Bishops Quay and plans for Arthur’s Quay.
“These projects in totality will be transformational for Limerick but it will take a number of years before we are cutting ribbons and opening new premises. Yet our existing city centre businesses need support today.
“In that regard, the Chamber has been urging Limerick City and County Council to put dedicated resources in place to tackle the challenges businesses face today and I welcome this plan for a range of interim measures from Limerick City and County Council CEO Pat Daly and his team.”
She continued: “The appointment of a City Centre Revitalisation Manager to head up this interim activity while we wait for all that investment to be realized is a very positive step. Having a dedicated person with ownership of this activity to ensure everyone is doing what they should be doing is essential for better coordination and effectiveness. We ask now that this person be given the resources and influence to make things happen and we look forward to working closely with the appointee.”
The City Centre Revitalisation Manager will work with a new multi stakeholder city centre action group including Limerick City & County Council, Limerick Chamber and representatives of city centre businesses to provide activities and solutions to bridge the gap between now and the coming years as the larger projects are delivered and while upgrade works are advanced on O’Connell Street
Among the other measures are the appointment by Limerick City and County Council of its own internal work group to address maintenance and management in the city centre and to increase animation via increased on-street events, improved floral displays and street dressing.
The local authority is also examining measures to make city centre car parking more attractive for people to visit for shopping, particularly on Saturdays when there are already 2,000 free on-street disc parking spaces just outside the core business district, and will bring forward measures shortly to address this.
Limerick City and County Council will also appoint a new Festival and Events Officer to provide an enhanced programme of festivals and events across the city and county and with a particular focus to drive events and animation in the city centre to increase footfall.
A new hi-tech street washing machine is also to be delivered in the next few weeks to enhance city centre cleaning operations while Limerick will host a Retail Investment Day in April/May in conjunction with Retail Excellence Ireland to market Limerick City Centre for new stores.
Marketing of Limerick City Centre via social and other media as a retail and food destination and as a weekend break destination will be increased to strengthen footfall and encourage more Limerick people back into their city centre.
The local authority is also working with An Garda Síochána through the Joint Policing Committee to make Limerick one of the safest city centres in the country. Bus access will be promoted via Leap Card, while the local authority is also addressing the issue of derelict buildings in the city centre by engaging with owners to redevelop their buildings.
Where co-operation is not happening, a programme of targeted compulsory purchasing of derelict buildings will commence. The local authority is also addressing the challenges of living in Georgian Limerick through the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) Living Georgian City Strategy and the +City xChange (Positive City Exchange) programme.