2016: Limerick’s year
It’s an exciting year for Limerick dwellers for many reasons: The biggest is of course we are soon to learn whether the work of Limerick2020 has paid off, as the battle for European Capital of Culture reaches the final selection stage in July. It’s also the year that the new Troy Studios is set to host its first film production (and yes, we’re dying to know what it is as much as you are!).
Plus, as Conn tells us, the next 12 months will see big steps forward for the 2030 economic and spatial plan, which has been in progress since mid-2013. ‘We’ve already seen tangible results emerge in the form of job creation, with more than 7,000 jobs created in the city, and the momentum looks set to continue. There has been a strong return to life for the retail sector, which isn’t just good news for businesses but also for maintaining the vitality and beating heart of the city.’
Renew and regenerate
Regeneration is a key part of the plan, and this year will also see important steps forward for two major construction projects in the city centre: The Opera Centre site and the Henry Street Hanging Gardens. The council confirmed they had purchased the latter in 2015, and will take over the half completed works to turn the Hanging Gardens building into clean office space to accommodate up to 800 office workers. As for the Opera Centre site, Conn confirms they are now at the end of the procurement stage and the next stage will be to plan development. ‘It’s taken a long time to get here but it was necessary, as this is such a transformative project for the city, it has to be right.’
2016 has already seen the arrival of Uber, who opened their new Centre of Excellence just a few weeks ago. ‘There are currently 116 overseas companies operating in here, and counting. They see Limerick as an attractive, successful and easy place to do business, and it’s important we embrace that identity ourselves and promote it’ says Conn.
Conn also talks about the general positive attitude that now exists in the city. ‘It’s been a feeling for the last few years, but what is happening now is that the positive attitude towards the city and the pride that is building amongst people is turning into real tangible change. There is a willingness to do more for Limerick and do the right things to play to its strengths and work to make it an even better place. The optimism and confidence has translated into action through goodwill. There are so many community groups, volunteers and organisations working for Limerick in social intervention projects and this is important to support regeneration.’ A great example of the efforts of volunteers is the number of people involved in Limerick Tidy Towns and other volunteer groups, whose pride and dedication to a cleaner city were directly responsible for Limerick city moving up 12 places in the Irish Business Against Litter (Ibal) anti-litter league to 18th place, and regarded as Clean to European Norms. ‘And of course, City of Culture, and the continuation of that with Limerick2020 has brought the creative and cultural to the fore, giving many people a whole different perspective on Limerick city life and drawing attention to incredible things that are happening right under their noses. Having spoken to many people about what makes Limerick great, we often hear it’s all about the people, and it’s encouraging to see more action being taken by individuals to promote and engage with their surroundings.’
2016 and beyond
So this year is the year of tangible action. It will see the beginning of important projects that have been talked about, almost to death, for many years prior to now. In order for these developments to achieve their full potential, we have to look at Limerick in a wider context, says Conn. ‘There will be a lot of discussions relating to transport and accessibility over the coming months, and indeed years. It is critical that progress is made in these areas. We need to look at solutions to the build-up of traffic in and around the city and county, and ensure that transport links are up to scratch. All this is vital to the continued growth and success of Limerick for which the foundation has already been set.’
Article by: Kayleigh Ziolo
Image by: Tarmo Tulit