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Roman baths: new plan for former Jesuit church

Fiona Tyrrell Thu, Dec 20, 2007

A former Jesuit church in Limerick is to be turned into a day spa and leisure centre and will feature a 20-metre swimming pool in the nave of the church.
The Jesuit Church of the Sacred Heart at The Crescent in Limerick city and its adjoining residence is to be redeveloped into a mixed-use leisure facility to be called the Roman Baths.
The two buildings were purchased by Galway-based developer John O’Dolan for over €4 million last year.
O’Dolan has been in pre-planning talks with Limerick City Council regarding his plans for the landmark buildings and expects to lodge a full planning application within four weeks.
Various uses for the buildings – including a commercial office building, restaurant and a pub/club – were considered before a proposal to develop a mixed-use leisure facility was decided upon.
The scheme, if it gets the go-ahead from the local authority, will see the church transformed into a day spa featuring a swimming pool, gym and treatment rooms.
Architect John Kennedy of Waterford-based Elliot Design said the proposed scheme will involve “very little alteration to the church” and “virtually all of the fabric of the existing structure” will be retained, including all five altars.
The pool will be in the nave of the church, where the congregation once sat, and a glass wall around the pool area will ensure that the existing view from the front of the church to the altar remains intact, said Kennedy. A gym of around 743sq m (8,000sq ft) will be on a new floor to be constructed five metres above the ground floor.
A sauna and steam room will be in an ancillary space adjoining the church. Six spa treatment rooms will be in the basement of the church and the adjoining residence.
It is proposed to put a restaurant and juice bar on the ground floor of the residential building and have eight individual office suites on upper levels, providing around 743sq m (8,000sq ft) of space.
The church was developed by the Jesuit order in the mid 19th century.
The developer says he has been in talks with a group about holding a Latin Mass in the building once a month.
The use of the church as a leisure facility will ensure continued public access to the building, he says.

© 2007 The Irish Times

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