Peter Coyne, former chief executive of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, said urgent action is called for to revitalise the city centre.
Otherwise it would continue to decline and militate against the wider development of the entire mid-west region.
He was speaking at the launch of a report, Revitalisation of Urban Limerick.
He, along with the former president of the University of Limerick, Dr Edward Walsh, are co-authors of the report which was commissioned by Atlantic Way, University of Limerick, Limerick City and County Councils, Shannon Development, Limerick Chamber of Commerce and Limerick Co-ordination Office.
Mr Coyne said a decline of the city centre would open the way for worsening problems such as anti social behaviour.
He said: “Inward investment into the entire region is prejudiced by the absence of a vital and progressive city centre.”
The report also concludes Limerick is critically disadvantaged in seeking to meet the expectations of the National Development Plan. It states: “Limerick is at risk of acute degeneration as a city entity.”
The report calls for the setting up of a city centre authority to drive iconic developments in key areas adjacent to the Shannon waterfront.
The report identifies a number of barriers to the economic development of the city centre.
These include poor brand image of social disorder and crime, an absence of a vision for the city centre, dysfunctional local government, and lack of drive and leadership.
“The city could go into rapid terminal decline if nothing is done. Limerick could be an amazing European city and we believe it can become that quickly,” said Mr Coyne.
Dr Walsh said they wanted a new city centre authority to oversee a number of key projects which should include the total development of the city docklands area, the re-development of King’s Island with a mix of social and private housing and an iconic riverside development at Arthur’s Quay.
This latter initiative should be a public-private partnership and entail wide-ranging retail, recreational, residential and artistic developments.
Development of Arthur’s Quay along these lines, he said, would act as a focal point and a launch for widespread revitalisation of the entire city centre.
Dr Walsh said: “There is enough energy in this area in the public and private sectors not to be afraid to remove barriers to move ahead and the great love of their city by the people of Limerick needs to be built on.”
Chairman of Atlantic Way Brian O’Connell said they had commissioned the report as they wanted the city centre to develop into a driving force for the entire region.
It was planned, he said, to seek a meeting with the Taoiseach and key government ministers to discuss the report with them and to get Government backing for its implementation.