By David Raleigh
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is expected to sign off on a €85m loan to Limerick City and County Council tomorrow to transform a 3.7 acre city-centre site “into one of the country’s top urban office developments”, creating 3,000 jobs.
When confirmed the loan will, according to sources close to the project, be “the largest ever EIB support for urban investment in Ireland”.
The “massive” investment in Limerick, will place the city in a commanding position to attract some of the world’s largest companies and those exiting the U.K. over the country’s controversial Brexit plans.
Sources revealed the EIB Council deal is to specifically develop the “Opera Centre” Site, located at the northern edge of the City’s core commercial district.
The prime site comprises part of an existing urban block, bounded by Rutland Street and Patrick Street to the west, Ellen Street to the south, Michael Street to the east and Bank Place to the North. “Project Opera” is proposed as a mixed-use development of the site with an emphasis on public/private sector uses and small scale retail which may include a residential element.
A new public square is to be provided as part of the development with pedestrian links to adjacent city streets.
The completed development is projected to accommodate approximately 550,000sq.ft of building accommodation, subject to planning.
EIB Vice President Andrew McDowell is expected to arrive in Limerick tomorrow to officially sign contracts for the “massive loan” at the Council’s city headquarters Thursday afternoon, along with Council CEO, Conn Murray, and Denis Brosnan, Chairman, Limerick Twenty Thirty, the Council’s development company.
“The loan is going to be used to develop the Opera Site and transform it into one of the country’s top urban office developments,” a source confirmed.
The Opera site — once valued at over €100m at the height of the boom — failed to get off the ground following the economic crash, and the Council purchased it for €12m in 2011.
Opera is a central part of the Limerick Twenty Thirty’s €500m investment plans to make Limerick an attractive and competitive international city.
The firm has also purchased other key strategic sites including The Gardens International project, which is under construction to provide 80,000 sq ft of Grade A office accommodation.
The loan for the Opera site however is being seen as a major advantage for Limerick over Cork and Galway in attracting foreign investment.
A source said: “It is a big deal, and, a real thumbs up for Limerick from the EIB. It gives us massive credibility. The EIB don’t give out money likely - they only back solid long-term investments.”
“It’s a real vote of confidence in the city. Limerick is the fastest growing Irish region outside of Dublin for foreign direct investment.”
Since 2013 and largely under the watch of former local Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, more than 12,000 jobs have been announced in Limerick, while more than 2,500 posts have been announced since January 2017.