Home Limerick People Guest blog: Re-inhabiting Newtown Pery

Guest blog: Re-inhabiting Newtown Pery

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Thanks to Ailish Drake of Drake Hourigan architects and the Irish Georgian Society for this post
In his speech to the Business Strategy
Conference last month, John Moran spoke enthusiastically of how well placed
Limerick is to become a second city with ‘the signs of recovery … tangibly
there for all to see.’ He outlined the opportunities for our city and
encouraged us to grab it with both hands. Referring to the ‘Georgian Tiger’ of
the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, he told of how the city
quadrupled in sized between 1730 and 1815.
Pery Square, Limerick
It is this period of construction that
gives Limerick it’s unique historic character, which sets it apart from other
towns and cities in Ireland. In 1834 Inglis, a travel writer compares Limerick
to Dublin and Cork writing ‘The new town of Limerick is, unquestionably,
superior to anything out of Dublin. It’s principal street, although less
picturesque than the chief streets of Cork, would generally be reckoned a finer
street.’
During this time, Newtown Pery, which runs
Rutland Street to Pery Square, was built. There is a misconception that
Limerick has a ‘Georgian Quarter’, as indicated in the Limerick 2030 Plan,
running from Roches Street to Pery Square. This is a dangerous oversight which
leaves a huge part of our Georgian Built Heritage at risk.
The townhouses of Newtown Pery were
erected and lived in by natives of Limerick City. These were the up and coming
business men of the period and included merchants, bankers and lawyers. They
were built by local builders and crafts people, and although austere on the
outside, many had highly ornate interiors with elaborate plasterwork and
joinery.
The Limerick Chapter of the Irish Georgian
Society has a number of upcoming lectures, which will focus on the historic
regeneration of Newtown Pery. The first in the series will take place on
Tuesday, 16th of February, 7pm, at Mary Immaculate College, Rm. T117. 
Leading
the discussion on
the 16th February is Frank McDonald, former Environment Editor of the Irish
Times and author of several books. He is currently columnist with the Dublin
Inquirer and Irish Arts Review. 
McDonald
was very critical of the language used in the Limerick 2030 plan, which states
that ‘The overall condition of
the Georgian properties is extremely poor.’ He argues that although there has
been much neglect with buildings ‘defaced with PVC windows, signs and other
accoutrements’, the buildings themselves are in fact in good condition.
Joining Frank McDonald at the talk will be Kieran
Reeves, Senior Executive Planner with Limerick City and County Council. Reeves
is in charge of the Living Cities Initiative, a tax
incentive scheme available to owner occupiers to upgrade houses built prior to
1915. I wrote in the Limerick Leader last November, that the initiative in it’s
current form is flawed and requires serious re-thinking by the
Department of the Finance. 
Reeves will also discuss the recent announcement of
EU funding for the ‘enhancement of Limerick’s urban centre’. Although the
announcement is welcome news, the area earmarked for investment, which runs
along O’Connell St., from Denmark St., to Barrington St., is the
central spine of Newtown Pery, and as such, upgrade works need
to be sensitive to the existing historic fabric. 
With this in mind, the Chapter
would like to engage with Limerick Council, particularly in relation to the
design elements of the public realm. For example, the correct use of hard and
soft landscaping, improved street lighting, removal of surface wiring, suitable
furniture, and clear way-finding, using a ‘less is more’ approach.
Mary Hughes, immediate past President of the Irish
Planning Institute will also speak on the night, giving her take on what needs
to be tackled to improve Limerick’s public realm. We will open the floor to
questions on the night and expect a lively discussion to ensue.
On the 8th March, we will be back in One Pery Hotel,
8pm and we will be joined by Giulia Vallone, Senior Executive Architect at Cork
County Council. Giulia is responsible for the beautifully designed RIAI award
winning Emmet Square, Clonakilty, which brings life back into a Georgian Square,
with a new park design and vacant properties being re-inhabited.
Our final lecture in the series, on the 12th April,
will be given by Judith Hill, Architectural Historian and author of ‘The
building of Limerick’. Judith will look at the reasons why we should regenerate
Newtown Pery.
Links: 
Irish Georgian Society website www.igs.ie

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