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Creating quality Limerick residential must come in tandem with job creation

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Creating quality Limerick residential opportunities to match the new influx of jobs in the city needs to be addressed. The announcement last month that Limerick Twenty Thirty have submitted official plans for the former Opera Site was a welcome step forward.

Yet the response from various parties has been somewhat mixed. One of the key concerns is the fact that the proposed development contains no residential element.

Project Opera – lots of space for jobs but no residential?

The Opera site is a key development under the Limerick Twenty Thirty project. It is a 500,000 sq ft project located in the heart of the city centre. The proposed mixed-use development will include office, retail, culture and a licensed premises.

Rightfully there is some concern at the omission of any residential element within the development. A new public plaza is to be created as part of the development, snazzy new commercial towers will be incorporated and the Georgian element along Patrick St will be brought back to life.

There can be no doubt that Project Opera will be a welcome addition to the day to day life in Limerick city centre. The fear is that it will become a dead space post 6pm.

Some have commented that, at a time when the country faces a major housing crisis, the Opera site is missing an opportunity to become a 24/7 destination for living, working and playing.

I am no economist so forgive me for my uneducated opinion, but this is my reading of where we are at.

Gardens International now on site

For many years there has been an acknowledgment that the creation of quality commercial office space in the city is a crucial requirement. Should the Opera development and the Gardens International project successfully attract commercial tenants we will see the addition of thousands of people to our city centre working population.

The hope would be that this working population would be a good mix of established well-paid professionals, young start-ups and well-educated individuals on the cusp of bright futures.

Such an addition to the city centre’s day to day life will transform how the city feels. It will bring an economic boost. It will incentivise new retail, new hospitality, new services to open bringing further employment.

Not everybody will want to live in the city centre but if current trends are correct we can be certain that a fair percentage of the new Limerick working population will certainly want to consider the city centre as home.

Limerick city isn’t at the races in terms of the availability of quality residential at present. If we are to match the demand of what is hoped to come down the line we need to up our game.

The local authority through the Limerick Twenty Thirty vehicle are meeting their end of the bargain in terms of preparing our city to meet future demands for quality urban office accommodation. Limerick residential needs to follow suit and this isn’t necessarily the role of the Council.

Room for residential opportunities elsewhere in Limerick?

Throughout the city we have Georgian spaces with empty floors above ground level. We have streets of retail with dead spaces above the shop. We have areas such as Kings Island, Clare St, Johnsgate, Thomondgate, Parnell St and so on that have, with a little bit of creative thinking, huge potential in terms of residential offering.

The Living City initiative introduced a number of years ago didn’t work. Could it be that such an initiative was ahead of its time? The opportunities to create quality Limerick residential offering are surely now a good bet for property owners who previously let their buildings sit idle?

It is refreshing to see Minister Eoghan Murphy suggest that moves will be made to address the issue of derelict of vacant properties across the country. Such moves would suit Limerick residential well.

The addition of the Gardens International on Henry St and the Opera project to our city’s commercial mix has the potential to be transformative. What we now need to see is private building owners repond to the demand coming down the track by upgrading, converting or developing the thousands of square meters of vacant city centre space into modern, affordable and attractive living space.

If this happens we should see the transformation of parts of our city that have been forgotten and neglected for many years.

A full video rendering of plans for Limerick’s Opera site can be viewed here:

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