The biggest 10-year real estate project in a city centre, outside of Dublin, was given the go-ahead in Limerick yesterday.
The so-called Opera Centre site, which covers 50,000 sq m along Patrick St, will undergo a €100m redevelopment. The public-private partnership facility will be a mix of retail, residential, and educational facilities.
Up to 3,000 jobs will be created in new centre and a further 300 in the construction phase, which will commence within 18 months
Limerick City and County Council yesterday advertised for expressions of interest from developers. A shortlist will be drawn up by June.
The University of Limerick will move a faculty from its Plassey campus to the site. Limerick Institute of Technology and Mary Immaculate College will also relocate students there and accommodation will be built to cater for more than 500 live-in students.
The project is already underpinned by a government commitment to relocate some 900 Revenue Commissioner staff from their existing base at nearby Sarsfield House
Limerick City and County Council chief executive Conn Murray said the development will herald a transformation of the city centre.
He said: “It will be catalyst for other investment in Limerick, becoming a cultural, commercial, and social hub. The city’s economic renewal as envisaged in the Limerick 2030 economic plan is already happening at pace, with 5,000 jobs planned across seven strategic sites. But this Opera Centre development will be the most significant accelerant of all.”
Denis Brosnan, chairman of the Limerick Economic Forum, said: “The publication today of the request for expressions of interest is a line in the sand for the overall project, one that will deliver economic benefit for Limerick and the wider region.”
The Opera Centre site comprises a large bundle of properties put together by Limerick auctioneer Pat Kearney for Belfast developer Suneil Sharma. It was valued at €120m at the height of the boom. A group of investors bought the site from Mr Sharma in 2007.
After the crash in 2008, the site was taken over by Nama and, with the backing of Finance Minister Michael Noonan, Limerick City and County Council bought the site for €12m four years ago.
Limerick City and County Mayor Cllr Kevin Sheahan said the development was a hugely exciting one. “It will help drive Limerick forward as a modern, dynamic urban centre that will be held up as an icon for the new and competitive nation that Ireland is fast becoming,” he said.
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