Few home comforts in plan for Opera Centre

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A NEW design brief on plans for the city centre Opera Site presented to members of Limerick City and County Council this week has little provision for residential accommodation, the Limerick Post can reveal.

The brief, which was prepared for meeting of the council members from which the media was excluded, does not include specific plans for major retail outlets such as Marks and Spencer which were the source of much speculation in the initial stages of the process.

The Limerick Post has acquired a copy of the document and can reveal that the plan is now for two high-rise office blocks, not three as was initially suggested, and to keep much of the facade of the site intact.

And council members were particularly welcoming of plans to include a state-of-the-art facility for the new city library.

But  the glossy presentation document makes little reference to the much-publicised student accommodation which was envisaged and states categorically that while the Limerick 2030 plan envisages a greater third level presence in the city centre, including something at the Opera Site, “based on discussions between the relevant parties to date, this design brief does not envisage that educational use will be provided as part of the redevelopment”.

The only reference to accommodation is in a section of the plan which allows for seven different uses, including a hotel, offices and bar and restaurant retail, medical and civic/cultural space, with residential coming last on that list.

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Nor is there any indication in the brief presented on Monday that space is being reserved for a retail anchor tenant such as Marks and Spencer, with references to smaller retail units for the site.

One of the features of the plan will be a civic square at the centre of the site, with research ongoing as to whether this should be a covered, semi-covered or open space where people can congregate.

Contacted by the Limerick Post, a number of council members welcomed the library and civic facilities but expressed concerns that the plan is not putting more emphasis at this stage on the need for living accommodation.

City West councillor, John Loftus (Ind) said he is concerned that there was just one reference to living accommodation in the presentation, with councillors told there would be some “high quality” accommodation provided.

“We really need to have people living in the city centre and when this started, there was much talk of having accommodation for students. But that seems to have gone by the way”.

Cllr Loftus was welcoming of the plans for a library and in general said “it’s good to see this is moving forward but I would also question keeping some of the buildings they are proposing to keep, They are very dilapidated”.

City West Councillor, Joe Leddin (Lab) said he would also have some concerns regarding the decision to keep some non-listed buildings which are in a state of disrepair.

He said he would also like to see a definite plan for living accommodation but he feels that having the library in the heart of the development “will bring a new kind of footfall to this part of the city.

“We will have children, parents families using it. It’s quite unique as a development that we will have a lot of office and commercial activity and at the heart of it, a public educational facility”, he explained.

A more detailed report is expected shortly as the plans will have to go before council, through a public consultation process and on to An Bord Pleanála before June.

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