Workers on the O'Connell Street revitalisation project which will be complete in 2022
ALL going well, the next 12 months should herald the opening of some of the most defining projects for the city centre in many years.
In spite of the pandemic, builders have remained on site at the International Rugby Experience project, the neighbouring revitalisation of O’Connell Street, with groundwork continuing on a new multi-storey office/accommodation block on Limerick’s riverside – although this will not be ready until 2023.
However, it’s bred high hopes that Limerick could bounce back stronger from the last two, testing years.
But the Chamber president Donnacha Hurley is under no illusion that 2022 will still be “fundamentally very challenging”.
“But given our recent past experience, we now have a better toolkit to help us be resilient and manoeuvre as we progress through this pandemic. Being positive is not about thinking that everything will be perfect, but it’s about believing as we drive forward we are, however, slowly getting closer to that vision of a better Limerick for all stakeholders,” said Mr Hurley, who is manager of the Absolute Hotel.
The transformation of O’Connell Street is well under way now, with the project set to provide wider footpaths, on-street trading, and spill out zones from shops and cafes.
Specialised public transport infrastructure will be in place, with dedicated cycle lanes to facilitate active travel, while there will be new seating areas, lights and features like sculptures, pedestrian plazas and water features.
The chief executive of the Limerick Chamber Dee Ryan said: “We lobbied for this, and got it moving forward. It’s been a rocky start, but it’s being delivered at pace now by the contractors and the local authority, we are working with them to ensure business owners are informed as to what the impact will be on business blocks. But we are hopeful the project will come to a conclusion by the end of the summer.”
Even before that, she said, Limerick people will get a sense of what it’s like, with the main works on the heart of the main thoroughfare between Brown Thomas and the Augustinian Church set for completion by Easter.
High-profile city businesswoman Helen O’Donnell says the completion of the public realm is vital for the perception of Limerick city.
“If you had asked people a few years ago to sit outside in November and December in Ireland, they would have looked at you as if you were crazy. I think we have learnt to put on layers and layers of clothes, and it’s a safe place to be. But the public realm, it’s vital these are maintained and people are comfortable using them,” she added.
The ribbon is set to be cut at the International Rugby Experience by the autumn, and Ms Ryan says it is developments like these which are also crucial for the perception of Limerick.
“It’s going to be a really important visitor attraction … It will help people outside of Limerick think differently of Limerick and choose Limerick as their Irish staycation destination when holidaying in 2022,” the Chamber boss predicted.
Something else which could alter the perception of how Limerick is seen outside its boundaries is the fact the city and county electorate will go to the polls for the first time to elect a new executive mayor with sweeping new powers.
Mr Hurley asked: “Who doesn’t love an election? The chance to vote for Ireland’s directly elected mayor with all the potential it beings is alone worth being positive for in 2022!”
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