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'We don't want another deadzone': Outrage over backtrack on housing in new Limerick development

The council said two years ago that the development would include residential units, but new plans do not contain accommodation.


Source: Limerick.ie/Vimeo

THERE HAS BEEN criticism of plans for a massive new development in Limerick as it has emerged they do not include any housing, despite an indication from the council two years ago that residential units would be included.

The project was given the go-ahead in 2015, and at the time Limerick City and County Council opened the development to expressions of interest. The council also said in 2015 that the site would be a mix of office, retail, residential and educational units.

However, plans presented to council members in June did not include a provision for accommodation of any kind. ‘Project Opera’ is being undertaken by Limerick Twenty Thirty, a strategic development designated activity company (DAC) tasked with developing a number of key sites in Limerick.

The presentation given to councillors described the site as a “major opportunity for new business activity”. Plans include the construction of four new buildings and the use of four existing buildings for office, retail and cultural use.

Source: Limerick Twenty Thirty

A planning application was submitted in June and the decision to grant it will be made by Limerick City and County Council, which still owns the site.

Local Solidarity councillor Cian Prendiville criticised the new plans and is encouraging residents of Limerick city to make submissions to the council, urging it to include housing on this site.

“It is very good to finally see some progress in terms of this vacant site, six years after the council bought it. However, there is a lot of disappointment with the lack of vision in the proposals,” he said.

The council is proposing to spend €150m building four multi-storey office blocks on this site, and redeveloping four existing buildings, again as offices, with not a single apartment on the site. This is in the middle of a housing crisis, with almost no affordable, quality apartments available in the city centre, and rents already going through the roof. While not everyone wants to live in the city centre, more and more young people in particular are looking for that option.

“The Opera site has the potential to be an amazing project, and a lively space to live, work and socialise in the city. However, we don’t want another deadzone after 6pm, and at weekends.”

Prendiville said the Georgian buildings in particular could be turned into apartments for young people and families who want to live in the city centre. He said he would like to see a mix of quality, affordable and social housing for people to rent or buy.

A video on the councillor’s Facebook page, outlining his objection to these plans, gained traction this week, with a number of Limerick residents expressing their disappointment on his page.

“Cities are for people. The more people who live in the city centre, the more vibrant it becomes after 5pm and the more attractive it becomes for business. The council in Limerick is in a unique position with access to land and money to help ease both the housing crisis and reverse the donut effect which has led to the hollowing out of the city centre,” one said. “The fact that the council are currently proposing to build on a massive site and not facilitate a single home beggars belief”.

“Building high quality social housing in the city centre would actually benefit the businesses in the city,as more people living in the centre means more people shopping, I think that’s a no-brainer really,” another commented.

One man said it was “ridiculous” to build such a large complex in the city centre without any provision for housing. And another said more city centre housing would “inevitably benefit city businesses too”.

Source: Limerick Twenty Thirty

However, some people who reacted to Prendiville’s comments were in favour of the new business development.

“Social affordable housing in the middle of a new development that’s meant to attract new businesses and ventures to Limerick city? Fair enough if there’s apartments there, but don’t think they should be social housing units,” one man said.

“Nope, social housing will drive away any business from investing. Keep them separate it never works. Develop separate areas for both,” another commented.

In response to a query from TheJournal.ie, Limerick Twenty Thirty said it “conducted significant market research” and had “submitted proposed plans based on this – essentially delivering what the market wants”.

“Through that level of investment and resultant employment of up to 3,000 people at the site, we will create the market for residential properties, leading to significant investment in the development of a range of residential sites across Limerick”.

The Opera site scheme will take six years to deliver and Limerick Twenty Thirty said that, in parallel with that, it will be working with relevant stakeholders with regards to Limerick’s residential requirements.

“This will be delivered through a mix of private sector and local authority investment. With regard to the latter, Limerick CCC has received funding from the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund to develop 400 houses in Mungret by 2021 and, together with plans for Greenpark, there’s potential for 3,400 homes at these two sites alone,” Limerick Twenty Thirty said.

“Additionally, there is ongoing work in relation to the revitalisation of Limerick city’s historic urban core to maximise the residential potential of Georgian Limerick.

“Ultimately, we are fully satisfied that the mix of commercial and residential investment in the offing is the right one and will ensure Limerick becomes one of the fastest growing and vibrant working and living cities in Europe over the next decade and more.”

Submissions to the council about the development of the Opera site can be made until 25 August.

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