Delicate job to secure protected buildings on Opera Site

Conservation Officer Tom Cassidy with Historic Buildings Consultant Jessie Castle and Limerick Twenty Thirty chief executive David Conway at the Opera Square site.

WORK is about to start on special conservation project to secure the most vulnerable of the 16 heritage protected buildings being retained on the multi-million Opera Square site development in Limerick city centre.

The works on No. 8 and 9 Rutland Street are being carried out by John Sisk & Son, who were engaged by Limerick Twenty Thirty to carry out demolition and enabling works in advance of the site-wide basement contract due to start in the third quarter of the year.

The majority of these works are now complete, with 14 of the 16 heritage protected buildings already stabilized.

The remaining two 18th century Georgian terrace buildings pose the biggest challenge due to complex structural issues. These issues need to be addressed before commencing demolition of the 40-year-old office building adjacent to them.

Together, the restored Georgian Buildings, the heritage protected Town Hall and the new build on the demolished site will form the new City Library.

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Structural Engineers and conservational specialists, Punch Consulting, have developed a temporary works design solution to address the structural issues and stabilize the buildings. This will include temporary steelwork to secure the front and rear façade and works at the top floor of the building.

The programme will take eight to ten weeks to complete and will require one of two lanes on Rutland Street to be closed to traffic.

Limerick Twenty Thirty chief executive David Conway said the demolition and enabling programme at Opera Square was the biggest undertaking in Limerick in recent years.

“We have been extremely careful about and focused on preserving the heritage buildings. We are managing to retain 16 Georgian buildings out of 18, in accordance with our planning permission.

“It’s quite a delicate job, one that we are taking every precaution possible on because of the structural condition of the buildings. They have been idle for a long time, just like the other 14 we are retaining, numbers 8 and 9 are in a much more of a fragile state.

“Every precaution will be taken to ensure that these specialist works are carried out with the utmost care. The team endeavor to save the buildings but then must keep health and safety as the main priority” Mr Conway added.

Limerick City and County Council Conservation Officer Tom Cassidy said it was one of the most complicated projects he has been involved in

“It’s really a ‘safety first’ approach. It’s a critical few weeks for these particular buildings and I’m confident, given all the time and planning that has gone into this, that we will arrive at the result we all want, but, more importantly, we will get there safely.”

Jessie Castle, Historic Buildings Consultant with JC Architects, who has also worked on the project, said: “These are two particularly fragile buildings in the stock of five Georgian structures being retained on this street alone.

“They require significant structural support not only because we want to retain the buildings themselves, but we cannot proceed to demolish the 1980s building beside them until they can stand independently on their own. So, what we are doing is working from the rear of the building to carefully bring down the top floor of the rear elevation.

“Hopefully, by the end of these works, we will be satisfied that the buildings are now stable and we can then begin conservation in the next phase.”