LIMERICK REGENERATION: The urban utopia that was never delivered

In the opening weeks of 2008, Mary McAleese travelled to Limerick to give a grand regeneration plan her presidential seal of approval.

She told an audience in Moyross: “It is a document that will transform your lives as the words become action. When I arrived today, I saw a lovely rainbow over Moyross. That was a benediction and I took it as a special sign of hope.

“You have been through so much in past years that your expectations of any real change may be low, and who could fault you for that,” she told locals.

“But I am here today to reassure you that the process of change we are launching is not like any other you may have experienced in the past.”

Alas!

The plan she unfolded was met with wide approval.

But there were sceptics whose doubts soon turned to grim reality.

Among them was local politician, Cllr John Gilligan who described the plan as the stuff of children’s author Hans Christian Andersen.

The plan proposed the total redevelopment of four estates — Moyross, St Mary’s Park, Ballinacurra Weston and Southill — in the period 2009-2018 involving a total investment of just over €3bn, of which €1.6bn was to come from State investment and another €1.4bn from the private sector.

It was proposed to demolish and replace 2,400 existing houses, build 4,800 new homes and convert the old Long Pavement landfill site into a regional park.

The masterplan had the aspiration of leaving the new estates “unrecognisable”.

It was proposed to build a Garda centre in the proposed new town square in Moyross

St Mary’s Park was to become a marina-type estate with districts such as Gooseneck Park, Bastion Quarter, Verdant Quarter, Wetlands.

The proposed Gooseneck Park was to be an urban park incorporating all-weather pitches, an equestrian education centre, an eco- centre and wider parkland areas. A marina was also planned for St Mary’s Park with a viewing tower and boat tours on the Shannon. A proposed Bastion Park was to house a museum and interpretive centre. The plan had stated: “A key objective is to transform the perception of St Mary’s Park as a socially disadvantaged, physically sub-standard and crime-ridden ghetto to one of a safe, model urban riverside residential development.”

The plan had acknowledged one of the challenges would be to convince home buyers of the convenience of living in the new regenerated estates — that the convenience of urban living, combined with an exceptional natural environment was a desirable alternative to living in suburbia or commuting from outside towns and villages.

Those were but just a few of the goals in a ‘great dream’ that never materialised.

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