Work will begin within weeks on rebuilding a Co Cork theatre and library which were damaged by a fire five years ago.
The Briery Gap complex in Macroom was extensively damaged when a fire broke out at the back of the building in May 2016. It has remained closed since.
Work is scheduled to get under way in January by Cumnor Construction, with the completion of the project scheduled for May 2023. Preliminary work will start this month at the site.
The project will include the insertion of new steel, concrete and timber-framed structures into the existing masonry shell of the building.
Local Fine Gael TD Michael Creed said the project had been “dragging on” for a long time because there were many hurdles to cross, which he says have now been cleared.
He said the planned completion of the project was close to the timeline for the conclusion of the town’s bypass, which is due to be finished in the second half of 2023.
Mr Creed believes the Briery Gap will play a central role in the economic life of Macroom after the bypass removes traffic from the busy town centre.
He said the bypass would reclaim the streets of the town from traffic for its people, allowing the town centre to flourish, particularly with the redevelopment of the Briery Gap.
And he said: “In a post-bypass scenario, the town centre will have to stand on its own two feet. The Briery Gap is going to be jewel in the crown for Macroom. It has the potential to anchor economic activity. It is important that this project drives on. It makes me confident about the post-bypass era for the town.”
He believes the combined projects of the bypass and the Briery Gap will help attract people from neighbouring hinterlands who have been shopping in towns including Ballincollig, Killarney and Dunmanway to do their business in Macroom.
Labour councillor Martin Coughlan said the town had been waiting for the Briery Gap re-development to go ahead for the past five years.
In welcoming the new timescale of the project, he said: “We were getting worried that it would never happen. It was a huge loss to the town.”
The Briery Gap was opened in 2000 and incorporated a 200-seat theatre and library, as well as a cinema. It was refurbished three years before the fire.
The library relocated to Railway View in the town after the fire but will return to the Briery Gap when the rebuilding project is completed.