IT'S a landmark day in Limerick as the biggest single commercial property programme investment has broken ground.
Workers were present at the Opera site in Patrick Street from early this morning, as the demolition and enabling works were commenced by contractor John Sisk and Son.
Having secured planning permission in February, the 1.62 hectare site will, when fully developed, have the capacity for 3,000 employees across a 450,000 square foot campus.
Up to 500 construction staff will be employed on the €200m project, which is expected to take six years to complete.
Among its key elements of the project are a 14-storey landmark office space building; a five-storey aparthotel with 13 separate apartments and retail on ground and basement levels; a 4-6-storey over-basement building with office space, retail and restaurant/café; a new state-of-the-art library plus significant public realm.
The site is being developed by Limerick Twenty Thirty DAC (LTT), a special purpose vehicle established by Limerick City and County Council in 2016 to stimulate economic and social development by building out and promoting strategic disused sites in Limerick.
LTT has already completed the award-winning and fully let Gardens International project on Henry Street, a 112,000 sq. ft development completed at a cost of €17.6m. Also included in its portfolio is Troy Studios, Castletroy, which is fully completed and let; the 10 acre Cleeves Riverside Project also in the city centre, which is currently at master-planning stage; and the 60 acre Mungret Park residential site on the grounds of the former Mungret College where a 200 unit first phase will go to planning in Q1 2021.
The Opera Site is fully funded thanks to finance from the European Investment Bank, the Council of Europe Development Bank, with specific funding also through the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. The Opera Site will be developed to best practice sustainability standards under the LEED Gold and Nearly Zero Energy Building (NZEB) standards.
The extensive site demolition and enabling works will take up to 12 months to complete as will the demolition of all 20th century buildings and later additions, the adaptive re-use of the protected structures and other structures of heritage value. Three major site developments will take place in addition to the extensive enabling and demolition works over the first three years of the programme, including the new city library; aparthotel, retail and apartments plus the Revenue building and Granary developments.
Mayor Michael Collins said: "This is a very exciting day for Limerick City and County Council, for Limerick Twenty Thirty but, most of all, for Limerick and the wider Mid-West region. This development is going to be crucial in helping Limerick springboard out of the economic challenges that pretty much everywhere is facing now.”
The Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works Patrick O’Donovan added: "It’s fair to say that in terms of scale and significance, this is as important to Limerick as any other project planned for any Irish city or urban centre at the moment. We’re looking at an overall investment of €200m over the next six years. It’s going to propel the Limerick economy into a new era, it’s going to accelerate the social advancement of the city. It is also going to have a very positive ripple effect for a long time to come and way beyond the city but out into the county and into the region. I’m looking forward to that impact taking hold."
David Conway, the chief executive of Limerick Twenty Thirty added: "There’s going to be very significant employment and an economic spin-off for the region in the six-year build programme. We have been mandated to develop sites that would accelerate the ongoing transformation of Limerick City and today as we begin works here is a great moment in that journey."
Dr Pat Daly, the chief executive at the council added: "The Opera Site has been the most talked about development in Limerick in modern times so we’re delighted, together with Limerick Twenty Thirty, to make this happen. Limerick Twenty Thirty was designed to stimulate growth in Limerick and the Opera Site is the biggest project in the programme and the timing could not be better. Every city and region beyond in the world is in the grip of the economic fall-out from Covid-19 but the Opera site will give us a real edge in recovery.”