A NEW multi-million euro plan to transform Limerick’s Docklands, promising up to 1,000 jobs, has been hailed as a "very significant piece of the Limerick jigsaw falling into place".
The Shannon Foynes Port Company unveiled its Limerick Docklands Framework strategy at the former Bannatyne factory on Friday.
The ambitious proposals could see the 110-acre site transformed to a commercial zone, with 75,000 square metres of dedicated space at the Ted Russell Docks, the Corcanree Business Park and other sites off Dock Road.
The entire site will be rebranded as the Limerick Docklands Economic Park, with buildings transformed into warehousing and logistics, as well as continuing as an operational port.
Company chief executive Pat Keating has pledged the blueprint will “not sit on the top shelf”.
“Our board is optimistic, encouraged and dedicated to delivering this plan,” he added.
At the centre of the plan, the old multi-level Bannatyne’s Mill – which was reopened for the launch – will be transformed into a commercial hub which could be home to up to 300 employees.
The nearby Ranks Silo building could, Mr Keating added, be used for adventure sports.
Work could commence on the plan as early as next year, with the Foynes Port company already holding talks with a number of potential partners.
Access to the docks from the main road will be changed to deliver public realm enhancement at the Dock Road.
“We are confident we have a very practical, credible strategy that we will be able to advance over the short, medium and long term,” said Mr Keating.
“We will market and promote the area under the banner of the Limerick Docklands Economic Park. That will give the whole area a strong sense of place, a strong purpose of being an economic park, providing a return to commercialisation.”
Access to the 15-hectare Corcanree Business Park will be changed, providing a direct internal connection between it and the docks, the proposals show, possibly along the riverbank.
Mr Keating suggested the buildings in Corcanree could be adapted to be used as warehousing for online shopping.
“You look at the trend of online shopping, and see its growth. It’s a massive share of the market, and the implication is when people click, they want delivery within 24 hours. That places massive demand on the supply chain.
"A new part of the supply chain is ‘last mile distribution’. The requirement for this type of activity is to be close to an urban centre, and obviously a main distribution network, which could be a motorway, or port,” he explained.
In total, the strategic plan will see around 0.38 hectares reclaimed.
Foynes Port chairman David McGarry said: “The Framework Strategy is the first time we have sought to maximise non-core activity. We will do in the best interest of our shareholder, the government, plus the city and region. But we will also do it in a way that supports existing port customers and ensures any future development respects its ecological value.”
Minister of State at the Department of Finance Patrick O’Donovan formally launched the blueprint, and said: “Here we have a site at the entrance to Limerick where there are already 400 direct and indirect jobs. There is huge potential here.
"The Shannon Foynes Port Company has shown over the years they have the ability to deliver projects like this, and will deliver.”
The strategy to transform the Docklands is yet another illustration of the renewed confidence and ambition of Limerick today, Mayor of Limerick Cllr Stephen Keary said.
"This is another very significant piece of the Limerick jigsaw falling into place," he said.
"Between the planned redevelopment of the Docklands area unveiled today through the Limerick Docklands Economic Park, what we have seen already from Limerick City and County Council, Limerick Twenty Thirty, our third level sector, Shannon Group and others, there’s a lot of reasons to believe that the huge ground made by Limerick over recent years is just the beginning and we will be reaping dividends of this long into the future."
Pat Daly, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Economic Development with the council, said: "The Limerick Docklands area is integral to this city and while the port company remains dedicated to growing commercial port activity there into the future, it is now also setting its sights on maximising other assets that are not part of its core activity.
"This is effectively 75 acres of development potential just off the heart of Limerick city, a huge opportunity for Limerick and the wider region."