Forum Replies Created
I don’t think a shopping proposal on the scale that was envisaged was ever viable. It would have drawn business’ and customers away from the existing retail core and would have had an overall negative impact on the city centre. In my opinion, had this gone ahead and filled all of the units then people would have had little reason to go anywhere in the city.
I think you are overestimating the extent of the so called retail core if that’s even an appropriate term to use given the paucity of the current offering. Realistically Limericks shopping district currently stretches from the O’Connell Street/Roches Street junction down as far as Denmark Street along with some of the adjoining streets and laneways. Hardly what you would call expansive!
If you recall, up until 5 or so years ago Rutland Street and Lower Patrick Street were lined with a variety of businesses; retail stores, cafes etc before the misguided decision to remove the occupants before redevelopment plans were even finalised. So this portion of the city centre was/is very much part of the commercial zone.
In reality though the quality of Limericks retail line-up has evolved disappointingly since the Cruises Street project opened over 20 years ago now. William Street for example never capitalised on the momentum created along with the increased footfall in its vicinity and the opportunity to freshen up the street was lost. It has stagnated at best since.
Similarly with O’Connell Street we saw only modest investment in retail premises even throughout the excesses of the “boom” years. The former Sony centre outlet has been vacant and up for sale for a number of years at this stage. The former Fergusons chemist across the street likewise. The calibre of many businesses on the street currently is poor and significant renovation and possibly amalgamation of properties is needed to attract new, higher quality tenants. There’s no sign that this is forthcoming and you can’t exactly usurp the existing occupants either.
It seems like I’m disagreeing with everything you say but I’m not sure that the city needs another street, not when we already have so many dead streets in the city. Also I think developments like Opera Lane and City Central really detract from a city. All of the shopfronts look the same and there is no variety. It’s almost like a shopping centre.
You might not be a fan but in fairness that City Central development along with the pedestrianisation scheme completely revitalised Bedford Row. It brought high quality retail and residential accommodation along with a five star hotel to the city centre on what was a neglected and decaying site. Do you remember how dingy it looked previously? Take a look at the attachments below. :thumbdown:
The project also attracted the first significant batch of retailers in to the city centre for many years, most of them not represented in Limerick previously. All the units are fully let too. It’s clear that in order to entice quality brands in to the city centre accommodation of an appropriate size and standard is required. I believe a project similar to that on Bedford Row could work well for the opera centre site. By bringing in fresh blood and more footfall one would hope that it would provide a knock-on benefit to the city centre at large.
What I would like to see in the site is loads of modern office space. If you consider that that any decent sized company wanting to set up in the city would probably need to build their own office building first, a large quantity of good quality office space would be a major asset. I don’t believe it should be used for retail as there are plenty of sites nearer to the core that have been identified in the most recent city development plan that are suitable for large scale developments.
I’m not convinced that the opera site is best suited to a large office development. Sure it might bring further employment in to town but large scale office blocks generally provide quite a dead, dull street presence and won’t exactly draw people in to the city except for the employees obviously. An element of office space could of course be accommodated but I wouldn’t like to see the majority of the site given over to it.
There are other locations that are more suitable for this purpose. The half built GPO/hanging gardens development which is in NAMA was to contain a large amount of office space over 6 floors or so. It should be a priority to have this completed at the earliest opportunity. The former ESB building and eventually Henry Street Garda headquarters provide another large scale redevelopment opportunity on the quays along with the portion of the docklands that SFPA are looking to offload. A significant amount of office space is currently vacant in the building at the corner of Thomas Street/Catherine Street as well.
A master plan for the future development of the entire city has been commissioned and is due for publication and I think any decisions on the site before this is published would have been grossly negligent of the council.
I admire you optimism but I wouldn’t hold my breath. I’ve lost count of the number of glossy city centre strategies and development plans that have been released over the years. They’re hardly worth the paper they’re printed on. This will simply be a regurgitation of the same aspirational spiel which is churned out endlessly and that the City Council have neither the ability nor the will to follow through on!
Some quite puzzling quotes attributed to the “economic director” of the forthcoming combined Limerick local authority in the press recently.
It’s laughable really that the site which for the most part of the last decade was trumpeted by Limerick City Council amongst others as imperative to the commercial revitalisation of the city centre can suddenly be deemed unsuitable for this purpose despite being put through an exhaustive planning process twice.
• It’s a large city centre site in dire need of a combination of redevelopment and conservation.
• Immediately adjacent to established commercial, shopping and leisure areas.
• Planning permission is already secured for a large retail project so obviously this type of development is acceptable in principle
• The site is under the control of the local authority (although it’s hard to tell if this is a positive or an impediment).
No clearly it doesn’t make sense on any of these fronts! :wtf:
Essentially this is an admission by the local authority that they are way out of their depth here and haven’t a notion what to do with the site nor how to proceed with a redevelopment.
It’s over a year now since Limerick City Council purchased the site and it obviously begs the question what exactly have they been doing for the past 12 months?
I fear that the lack of a co-ordinated effort not to mention a comprehensive master plan will just result in a piecemeal, make it up as you go along approach that will inevitably lead to a disjointed and underwhelming development of the site.
Of course that’s not to say that a re-evaluation of the original concept isn’t required. It’s safe to assume now that the shopping centre proposal is never going to be built. Indeed a development of such considerable retail floor space can hardly be justified given that the reality check has well and truly set in.
All things considered my preference would be for a new pedestrian street flanked by purpose built, appropriately scaled and sensitively designed individual shop units (with linkages to the existing buildings and dual frontage where possible) snaking through from the Ellen Street/Patrick Street corner to a quality public space on Bank Place. Something along the lines of the opera lane project in Cork roughly. Perhaps an element of office space and residential accommodation could also be included. There’s ample room after all on what is a pretty extensive site.
I’d also like to see the granary building afforded a more prominent position in the redevelopment. Integration to the centre of the site is easily achieved. At the moment too much of the original building is concealed by the 1980s office block. The fabric of this structure, its stonework and arches should be showcased not hidden. The removal of the office building would also afford the opportunity to extend the internal courtyard space along the entire length of the granary.
I really wish Limerick City Council would get off their arses and demonstrate that they are at least formulating plans or considering some uses for the site even in the short term.
Why not tear down that dog ugly hoarding and fencing along Michael Street. Clear those industrial buildings in the yard at the centre of the site and lay out a temporary car park. At least it would be a start. Why not also make the structurally sound buildings that have been vacant for the last 5 years available for rent again?
Show some imagination for feck sake!
Game over it would seem.
Six years on from the first planning application and the site remains untouched and significantly worse for wear.
On the one hand it’s somewhat encouraging to finally see some movement on this. Afterall it is over two years since An Bord Pleanala handed down their final verdict. However I find it difficult to muster up any enthusiasm at the prospect of the State overseeing the regeneration of this area. We’ll probably end up with more social housing units being developed. :crazy:
The existing plans are not without their flaws of course. But I reckon the shopping complex would have been the safest bet in terms of kick starting the process of injecting some life back into the city centre. A city centre that urgently needs to improve it’s dwindling retail offering.
The spin off effects from this development could have been a catalyst for the renewal of other under utilised sites in the surrounding area. The so called market quarter for instance has huge potential and we should be encouraging more cafes. restaurants, bars etc to set up there.
Overall Limerick City Council have as usual been extremely slow off the mark and blew a golden opportunity over the last decade or so to market this area for investment. You could argue aswell that had they adopted a more proactive approach during the planning stages of the opera centre. The complex could well have been up and running by now.
I see Savills have erected new banners advertising the sale of the opera centre site.
The Irish Times are reporting that €12.5 million is the guide price.
Despite murmurings of a number of parties showing an interest. You’d have to wonder who could possibly be in a position to get hold of the finance to take on this massive project?
Of course any potential bidders could well have other plans for the site aswell.
€110m development site back on market at €12.5m
A DEVELOPMENT SITE for the proposed Opera shopping centre in Limerick city centre, sold at the peak of the property boom for €110 million, is back on the market at a mere €12.5 million. The collapse in value underlines how much even prime retail sites have fallen in cities as well as towns. It also reflects the difficulties in securing funding for large-scale shopping facilities.
The 2005 sale of the rundown, vacant buildings off Patrick Street in Limerick is frequently cited among the great excesses of the property boom along with the €417 million purchase of the Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend and the €315 million acquisition of the Millennium Park in Naas.
Estate agents Savills are to launch a marketing campaign today to find a buyer for the 3.2-acre site which has planning permission for a multi-storey shopping centre with 38,541sq m (414,855 sq ft) of retail space and an underground car park. The sale has been called by developers Gerry O’Reilly, Terry Sweeney and David Courtney of Regeneration Developments, whose loans have been transferred to Nama.
The move to sell the site for the proposed €300 million Opera Centre comes only weeks after the Danish bank NIB reached agreement with an Indian-born developer, Suneil Sharama, for him to take control of a partially built shopping centre along the Dublin Road on the outskirts of Limerick city. Liam Carroll’s Zoe Group abandoned the 15-acre site for the Parkway Valley shopping centre about four years ago when its business collapsed. Local planners are now expected to allow an extension of time on the planning permission for the 39,650sq m (426,792sq ft) retail complex.
Coincidentally, the new promoter for that scheme, Mr Sharma, who is based in the North, is more familiar with the site for the Opera centre than anyone else – having quietly assembled the inner-city quarter along with another investor, Sam Morrison, over a number of years before selling it for an astronomical price to Regeneration Developments.
Limerick city planners granted planning approval for the Opera Centre in the hope that it might help to shift the balance back in favour of the city, which has been in serious decline for many years following the indiscriminate development of more than half a dozen shopping centres in the county-council areas adjoining the city boundary.
Footfall in the city centre has dropped dramatically in recent years as big-name overseas traders opted for out-of-town locations, leaving only three high-profile stores (Penney’s, Brown Thomas and Debenhams) with a broad appeal to city shoppers.
Many of the city’s once-thriving retail streets, including Patrick Street, William Street and the modern Cruises Street, have lost both traders and shoppers. Limerick is the only city in Ireland where rents in out-of-town shopping centres are almost twice as high as those in the city.
Much of the decline in city-centre trading is due to the way the county planners allowed the Crescent shopping centre to grow like Topsy. That trend was finally scuppered last year when An Bord Pleanála overruled the county planners and refused the Dublin-based owners (the Kenny family) permission for yet another major store with a floor area of 9,754 sq m (105,000 sq ft) for Marks Spencer.
The new Government’s recent decision to amalgamate the two local authorities is set to change future planning in the city and county. With Marks Spencer still to decide where to open its first Limerick store, Parkway Valley and whoever acquires the Opera site will both be pitching for the UK multiple as an anchor.
One developer who may take another look at the Opera site is Michael Tiernan, whose Arthur’s Quay shopping centre on the opposite side of Patrick Street has become quite dated. However, if linked up with the proposed new shopping complex it has the potential to turn around the city’s fortunes.
@Peter Fitz wrote:
More pics on the indo.
This view in particular is pretty disappointing!
Overscaled, bent steelwork and the clumsy fashion in which the roof slopes down to that miserable northern end. All terribly incongruous!
Griff, I honestly don’t think that access to the city centre is a huge problem, certainly not during trading hours anyhow! Fair enough it’s gets a bit tricky at rush hour etc but that’s to be expected!
The main reason’s that shopper’s are deserting the city centre are a combination of laziness, well documented issues such as beggar’s on the streets, lack of a visible garda presence etc, and of course a now inferior retail offering compared to the likes of the Crescent sc!
@Dan Sullivan wrote:
I’ve heard talk, vague to say the least, about redeveloping Arthur’s Quay and integrating this development with the Opera Centre site. If Mr. Tiernan hasn’t, unlike the other players around town, over extended himself he could develop the Opera centre and move his existing tenants into it and then re-do Arthur’s Quay as prime city centre office space.
I heard something broadly similar Dan, but it didn’t make a whole pile of sense to me. Maybe I just picked it up wrong!
It’s probably just an acknowledgement that there just isn’t the demand for another large scale retail complex as was proposed in the Arthur’s Quay Materplan! Of the two, the Opera Centre is the more viable retail project. Whereas Aurthur’s Quay offers more potential as a mixed use commercial/residential & possibly cultural project.
As it stands the Arthur’s Quay centre is mostly home to small, independent retailers. Hypothetically Tesco would be the only one large enough to take a unit in the Opera Centre. I think the operators would be setting their sights a bit higher than that but maybe this might all have to change now. Although hopefully we won’t have to settle for Arthur’s Quay mark II. 🙁
I personally don’t buy this argument. A fair and proper Ticket allocation system (yeah I know, I know..) you would hope would insure a partisan, passionate and vocal home support in a relatively intimate stadium built for competitive international field sports.
Either way I’ll be watching on the telly so I won’t be getting too worked up whether the ground can cater for presumed demand.
Ah but you see, it’s a different story entirely if you actually want to go to a game!
Less than 39,000 tickets for the real fans and that dosen’t include the away supporters allocation!
Of course it’s all irrelevant now. But it dosen’t change the fact that we have had to settle for a stadium with a totally inadequate capacity, which is quite annoying!
The IRFU was willing to move to a new site (it bought a site specifically to provide for this eventuality) but the site options report conclusively pointed to Lansdowne Road.
The ground will be fully completed this Summer. A compromise certainly but, as I said earlier, the best available outcome (in the real world).
Well the ABP inspector recommended that planning be refused as if I recall correctly the site was deemed to be unsuitable for a modern International stadium. It only got off the ground after the board over-ruled the planning report!
Below is an extract from the report.
The results of the site selection process do not, as suggested in the EIS and other documentation, clearly indicate that the Lansdowne Road site was the best site. There is a considerable weight of evidence to suggest that the Ardagh site would be more suitable for a modern international stadium.
An original study for 65,000 seats at Lansdowne Road concluded that there would be unacceptable impacts on adjacent residential amenity – primarily arising from the required height and scale of the Stadium.
To address this, while staying on the same site (judged the most appropriate site in most other aspects), a decision was taken to reduce capacity from 65,000 to 51,000.
Even at 51,000 the north end has to be so close to O’Connell Gardens/Havelock Square that anything higher than the current dropped tiers would have been very undesirable in terms of residential amenity (due to very negative sunlight/daylight impacts) and absolutely impossible to deliver (in planning terms). Alternative designs on site could not address this.
The 65,000 seater might have been built elsewhere – but this really would have been a pity IMHO.
I’m not sure if a more enclosed stadium would look/feel better. Maybe it would – but I find the current shape is very interesting and distinctive – (a good thing in terms of international recognition) – and the view of the city during nightime events should be rather special.
I was on a tour a couple of weeks ago and the internal layout and finish is exceptional with a great sense of closeness to the pitch. I think its going to be a great stadium – better with 65,000 of course – but the very best obtainable in the circumstances.
I’m well aware that 50,000 is the optimum capacity given the constraints of the current site. It’s just that it’s simply too small and if the site can’t take a stadium that adequately caters for demand, then you should look at alternative options!
Now the only options available were to try and buy up the properties that were impeding the full completion or the stadium or sell up and move to a new site! Clearly the IRFU were never likely to leave Lansdowne Road behind and I also can’t really see a situation in the near future where the ground will be fully completed either! So effectively we’ve had to settle for a compromised solution!
I know theres no point crying over spilled milk. But the unfortunate reality now is that it’s going to be even more difficult for fans to go see their international teams playing and I don’t think that’s fair!
It’s interesting that there are considerably less shots of the bus shelter end in comparison to the rest of the stadium. It’s hardly deliberate though! 😮
The stadium bowl reminds me of a scaled down version of the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, (which holds 65,000 btw!) Externally, Lansdowne will be much more pleasing on the eye but thats not really the point is it? It’s the quality of what’s inside that counts and you can’t really dress up that single tiered end as anything other than a failure!
It’s difficult to be exact but from what I can see anyway, there only appears to be in the region of 10 rows of seating at that end! That is going to look piss poor and will surely have an impact on the atmosphere inside the ground aswell!
Estadio da Luz
Staying with the issue of city centre decline. Here is the current state of play on Patrick Street/Rutland Street. Captured in black & white for added misery! 😉
Photos thanks to Stan the man
Hardly a surprise really is it?
Essentially the gist of this is that the development company may be able to secure the necessary funding but then again it probably won’t! 🙁
I must say I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for Regeneration Developments. Their stewardship of the project has been qestionable to say the least. This shambolic mess could easily have been avoided had it not been for a series of poor decisions in the design and planning stages! :rolleyes:
You were going to say bed pan weren’t you and then you thought better of it and decided to say ‘strange’ instead;)
I didn’t want to compare our new national stadium to a piss pot, but you can’t deny theres a resemblance there! 🙂
That cropped Havelock Square end certainly gives the stadium quite a strange shape when viewed from the air!
On the whole, it’s going to be a terrific venue for Irish sport but unfortunately theres no getting away from the fact that the capacity is just too small!! 🙁
Just to tie up another loose end which I thought had been sorted long ago but apparently not.
This was an appeal by the owners of the Trinity Rooms nightclub against the compulsory aquisition of a portion of ground on Bank Place to facilitate the development of the Opera Centre.
The inspector actually recommended that the CPO should not go ahead but this was overturned by the ABP board!
Decision: Confirm CPO without modifications
Date Signed: 27/11/2009
Reasons and Considerations
Having considered the objections made to the Compulsory Purchase Order and the report of the person who conducted the oral hearing into the objections and having regard to the purposes of the acquisition as set out in the Order, the need to promote the urban regeneration of Bank Place and contiguous areas of the city in accordance with the policies in the Limerick City Development Plan and the relevant Integrated Area Plan, it is considered that the acquisition of the land in question is necessary for the said purposes and that the objections cannot be sustained against the said necessity.
In deciding not to accept the Inspectorâ€™s recommendation not to confirm the Compulsory Purchase Order, the Board accepted the case made by the local authority that unencumbered possession of the piece of land on Bank Place, which is part of the public domain of Limerick City Centre, is a reasonable exercise by a local authority of their powers under the Planning and Development Act in order to achieve a comprehensive redevelopment of an area in need of regeneration for the public good, including the upgrading of the public domain.
I heard from a retailer right next to the proposed development that they are need about 20 million before the thing can go ahead.
Id say that’s a bit on the conservative side tretle. Over the last 18 months or so there was absolutely no indication whatsoever that Regeneration Developments had access to the kind of finance that was needed to fund this project.
Now that the Opera Centre has gone to the incomprehensible mess they call NAMA, it really is anyone’s guess as to when we’ll see any action! Although many of the building’s on site will probably be close to structural failure at that stage! 😡
How the State became de facto shopping centre owners (Irish Times)
ANGLO IRISH BANKâ€™S stake in the Opera Centre means that its future is now entwined with that of the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).
Interests held by the nationalised bank in completed, half-finished and mooted retail projects will be part of the â‚¬77 billion in property, land and development loans being transferred to Nama.
Any retail schemes that were financed by AIB and Bank of Ireland in recent years could also end up in the Nama pot â€“ but there are no official statistics on the value of retail-related debt that will now be dealing with a State agency as its lender.
Uncompleted schemes such as the â‚¬350 million Opera Centre â€“ the other 50 per cent of which is owned by developers Jerry Oâ€™Reilly, Terry Sweeney and David Courtney â€“ are part of the â‚¬46 billion of Nama loans that donâ€™t currently produce any income from tenants.
Some of these projects will not proceed as they no longer make commercial sense. Some â€œmay be viable of alternative uses or alternative project timescales are consideredâ€, the Nama business plan states. But it is likely that Nama will try to maximise its regular cash income, which could mean borrowing more to complete unfinished shopping malls.
Any decision on schemes such as the Opera Centre will have to be taken in the context of a more downcast consumer economy.
Tom Mackey, Limerickâ€™s city manager, is adamant that the Opera Centre will eventually â€œbring significant retail-led regeneration to Limerickâ€™s city centreâ€, as the original brochure claimed, and that it wonâ€™t be one of those â€œsounded like a good idea at the timeâ€ schemes that never happens.
â€œThat will happen in smaller commuter towns, but Limerick is the third city in the country. It is inevitable that if you have a major retail space, it will be developed,â€ says Mackey.
Hollowed out by the ‘doughnut’ effect (Irish Times)
LIMERICK IS a doughnut, according to the city centre’s retailers, and they don’t mean it as a compliment. With a fat ring of suburban shopping malls swallowing up available spenders into their inviting car parks, there’s a traffic-ensnared retail void right at the place where most cities tend to keep their busiest hubs of commercial activity: the centre.
Now a major plan to resuscitate the city’s retail heart has been derailed by the banking crisis. The 410,000sq ft Opera Centre, a €350 million project in which Anglo Irish Bank had a 50 per cent stake, has stalled indefinitely, the undeveloped site a bleak reminder of the ambition of the boom years.
For many city shopkeepers, however, lacklustre footfall along Limerick’s main arteries is a problem that originates decades ago, predating both Anglo’s hubris and Dell’s devastating redundancies.
“Really, the city council neglected the city and took its eye off the ball for 20 years,” says David O’Mahony, the chairman of O’Mahony’s bookshop, which trades over several well-stocked storeys on O’Connell St.
“It’s insane that the situation has been allowed to exist for so long,” he sighs.
The “situation” is that three separate councils have jurisdiction over the area that essentially makes up the city: Limerick City Council, Limerick County Council and Clare County Council.
The result of this administrative mishmash is that a string of shopping centres received permission to be built beyond the city’s patch, leaving those that were left in the centre floundering. “Like baubles on a necklace,” is how one person describes Limerick’s retail pattern – a more flattering description than a doughnut, perhaps, but no less dismaying for the city vendors fighting to attract a finite number of customers.
“No one in the city centre was unduly upset that the Parkway was shelved or the Crescent was refused its extension,” says O’Mahony.
The unfinished Parkway was a Liam Carroll speciality that started building before it had nailed down an anchor store. The brand-packed Crescent, located just past the city boundary in Dooradoyle, is already the biggest shopping centre outside the greater Dublin area, with Zara, Tommy Hilfiger, Next, HM, River Island, Monsoon and HMV all under its highly convenient roof. The Crescent was this year refused permission to expand again after the city council told a Bord PleanÃ¡la hearing that enough was enough: the city cannot be sacrificed to the suburbs.
“Most large urban centres would want to see the core supported first before you build around it,” says Tom Mackey, city manager of Limerick, matter-of-factly.
An application seeking the extension of the city council’s remit is sitting on the in-tray of Minister for the Environment John Gormley. “It would unite the city as one entity,” says Mackey.
In the meantime, Mackey is trying to unsnarl Limerick’s streets of its HGVs: the completion of an orbital route and building of a tunnel will allow for the pedestrianisation of O’Connell Street and the widening of the William Street footpaths, following an attractive pedestrianisation of Thomas Street and Bedford Row.
“To some extent, we’re very dependent on Government funding,” Mackey says ominously.
“Naturally, recession does slow things down.”
And the Opera Centre? “It’s hard to predict when it will be built,” he says.
For Oliver Moloney, founder of the Instore chain of furniture and giftware stores, the shame was that several businesses near his own Ellen Street store closed down to make way for the Opera.
“There was a bicycle shop, a butchers, a bar/restaurant,” he says, listing them.
“They created traffic for us. The pity was that it got that far and they sold their leases. But nobody knew what was coming, except for maybe David McWilliams. From the city council perspective, they’ve lost a lot of rate income.”
Like all analogies, the “doughnut” shape of Limerick is not a perfect fit. Apart from department stores Brown Thomas and Debenhams and a splattering of international fashion brands, the city centre also has something that tends not to be replicated in most standard-fit, inward-facing, privately developed shopping centres: independents.
“There are lots of brilliant independent traders on Roches Street,” notes former TV3 news reporter Laura Ryan, who, as Limerick City co-ordination officer, now has the job of promoting her native city.
“Tonight I’m going shopping with a girlfriend and we’re going to go for a glass of wine after. I’m not going to do that in a shopping centre,” she says.
Still, the Opera Centre would be a plus, Ryan thinks, especially if it managed to secure Marks Spencer, which is currently not in Limerick, but has toyed with several possible locations, including the rejected Crescent extension.
“I lived in Dublin for nine years and I have withdrawal symptoms from MS. Definitely, they would do so well in Limerick,” she says.
The weekend before last, Ryan helped organise Winterfest, a co-ordinated effort by Limerick’s retailers to entice people to shop. But although the event – which included a Georgian Quarter market, a range of discounts and a free-parking initiative – was a success, the Winterfest weather was too wintry for some.
The bad luck was encapsulated by the fate of the city council’s “green tree”. Plans to place the 100ft recycled-steel tree in the river were undone when the swelling waters allowed it to break free of its momorings and crash into Shannon Bridge. “It was always going to end up in the river,” says Ryan wryly.
Back in O’Mahony’s bookshop, there’s a display of “where did it all go wrong” economic books, while David McWilliams is due to pop in a couple of nights later to sign copies of his latest work.
O’Mahony, who sells academic as well as consumer titles, is enduring the “complete ripple effect” from Dell. “There’s been a massive drop in the resources of students and the resources of their parents as well,” he says.
O’Mahony has another hat – he is chairman of the Limerick Market Trustees, a historic body charged since the mid-19th century with operating or licensing any market that takes place in Limerick city “or one mile beyond”. But this involved “a significant amount of time spent running car parks”, he says. So the trustees began what’s now costed as a €2 million project to transform the Limerick Milk Market from a Saturday morning market to a six-day operation, with a weatherproof umbrella structure and five permanent units.
Earlier this month, with tenders awarded at recession-tastic competitive prices, the diggers finally moved into the cut-stone courtyard, not far from both Moloney’s Ellen Street store and the site of the Opera Centre.
“The Milk Market could be an events venue, it could be an outside broadcast area, it could be a cinema,” says O’Mahony, who hopes it will improve the city’s footfall when it opens in mid-2010.
“Limerick needs attractions, it needs places to visit. It has the river, it has the Hunt Museum, it has the retail diversity. But if you’re going into Limerick city centre, where are you going?”
The “community dimension” to the Milk Market will provide new opportunities for the local micro-enterprises that are expected to spring up in the wake of the closure of Dell’s manufacturing plant, O’Mahony adds. The city needs this more than any major retail scheme, he believes.
“With shopping centres, all you’re doing is replicating a theoretically English model and that is not what will help Limerick.”
Im not suggesting for a second that the Opera Centre is the magical solution to all the city centres ills but it’s certainly a big part of the solution. Firstly we need to provide large scale, modern retail space to attract the big name retailers not currently represented in Limerick, into the heart of the city. If we do this, it’s logical to suggest that increased numbers of shopper’s will follow!
It’s by no means a perfect development but the current proposal is infinitely better than what went before!
Of course the big question now is, when, if ever will construction get underway?