By David Raleigh
The biggest city centre real estate project outside of Dublin over the next 10 years has received the green light today.
The project based in Limerick city centre looks set to employ up to 3,300 people.
Limerick City and County Council today invited expressions of interest in the €80-€100m strategic Opera Centre site, which triggered the go ahead for the development. It is envisaged the project will be funded from public and private investment in common with projects of this scale and ambition.
The project, which is part of the 2030 Economic and Spatial Plan to create an economic hub in the city, had been dogged by serious delays which resulted in a string of vacant shopfronts along Patrick Street.
The re-developed 50,000sq metre area will be home to 3,000 jobs and a further 300 employed in the construction stage.
The 2.8 hectare site will provide for a mix of office, educational, retail and residential uses over a five-year period - commencing over the next 18 months.
The plan has been given a major boost with confirmation that University of Limerick (UL), Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) and Mary Immaculate College have committed to providing accommodation and additional facilities for over 350 students as part of the new development.
The project is already underpinned by a government commitment to re-locate the offices of the Revenue Commissioners from their existing accommodation at Sarsfield House to a new state of art office development on the site that will house up to 900 staff.
Announcing the move, chief executive of Limerick City and County Council Conn Murray said that it will be “transformational for the city”.
"It will transform a key area of the city centre and act as a catalyst for other investment in Limerick becoming a commercial, cultural and social hub. The city’s economic renewal as envisaged in Limerick 2030 is already happening at pace with 5000 jobs alone in the city centre planned across seven strategic sites, but the Opera Centre development will be the most significant accelerant of all," Mr Murray added.
The process of selecting a joint venture partner will take a number of months and will be followed by planning, with construction expected to commence in 2017.
Limerick City and County mayor Kevin Sheahan added: "This is a hugely exciting development for Limerick. In the fullness of time we will look back at the redevelopment of the Opera Centre as the moment that took the economic rebirth of Limerick to a new level."