LIMERICK City Council has been called on to carry out an urgent inspection of the site of the on-hold Opera (Shopping) Centre in the city centre as may of the buildings there are over 100 years old and have been unoccupied for years.
Cllr Joe Leddin said: “The condition of the buildings, especially the older ones, is a cause for concern as the buildings in question front on to street with high levels of pedestrian traffic.
“We certainly don’t want a repeat of what happened in Cork a few years ago when a disused building collapsed on to the street killing a person.
“Because these building are not being used for either residential or commercial use, there is a greater danger that they will deteriorate at a faster pace leading to possible structural concerns and safety issues.”
Cllr Leddin said that as the city council is the local statutory agency with responsibility for planning and building control, the council must request that a complete structural and safety audit is completed without delay.
“Once this report is completed we can consider the report’s findings and formally instruct the owners to comply with the recommendations made so as to ensure that no member of the public is in any way in danger from walking adjacent to these buildings.
“It is my understanding that management in City Hall have had a number of discussions with the owners of this site and the sooner we consider and agree alternative options for this site, such as a city centre transport hub for cars and buses the better,” he said.
In July of 2009 An Bord Pleanála approved planning for the Opera Centre — the largest shopping complex ever planned to be built in the midwest.
The €350 million development was to include a retail and restaurant complex as well as three floors of underground car parking.
The 38,500sq metre plan proposed to have two anchor units and 38 other retail units as well as the basement car park with 505 spaces.
Up to 300 jobs would have been created during the three-year construction phase, while an extra 800 full and part-time jobs were to be created once the centre opened.
The development was given the green light by Limerick City Council in 2008. However, a revised application was sent before An Bord Pleanála following objections.
The local authority acquired a large number of properties in Limerick city centre which are lying vacant in order to pave the way for the construction of the Opera Centre, which was first mooted in 2005.
The developers behind the project are Regeneration Developments Ltd.
Retail giant Marks & Spencer expressed interested in becoming tenants in the development, but it is believed that the retail giant was having second thoughts after An Bord Pleanála turned down a proposed expansion of Crescent Shopping Centre in Dooradoyle to accommodate a Marks& Spencer outlet.
Prior to that refusal a spokeswoman for Marks& Spencer said the company intended to open two stores in Limerick by 2011 or 2012. A spokesperson for Regeneration Developments said at that time it would be in a position to offer Marks & Spencer a 120,000sq ft unit — 10,000sq ft larger than the potential store in the Crescent Shopping Centre.
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