An oral hearing of An Bord Pleanála gets under way in Limerick today to examine the local council’s €180m masterplan for the redevelopment of a key city centre site.
The “Opera Site” project by Limerick City and County Council is regarded as the largest inner-city development outside Dublin for many years.
The council is seeking planning permission for a development which it claims could deliver 3,000 jobs.
The local authority said its plans for the 3.7 acre site near Patrick Street were a landmark commercial development.
“The Opera Site will be a key driver for increased economic activity in the city centre with potential to deliver significant employment opportunities and act as a catalyst for other major city centre investment,” the council said.
The project is funded with loans of €170m from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Council of Europe Development Bank.
The two-day hearing by An Bord Pleanála, which is being held in the Strand Hotel in Limerick, will begin with a detailed presentation by officials from Limerick Twenty Thirty, a special purpose entity established by the council.
The plans require the demolition of some city centre buildings including the library extension to the Granary Building and extensions to the historic town hall.
At the centre of the project is a new 14-storey office tower at Bank Place including over 13,000 sq m of office space.
Other elements of the development include:
• A mixed-use, six-storey building comprising office space, retail units and a restaurant/cafe.
• Renovation of the town hall and its integration with a new library.
• An aparthotel with 57 guest rooms.
• Small residential developments on Patrick Street, Rutland Street and Ellen Street.
The oral hearing is expected to hear from a number of objectors including An Taisce and the local branch of the Labour Party.
An Taisce, which is due to address the hearing tomorrow, claims the proposed development is “unsustainable” and “fundamentally flawed” and in contravention of planning guidelines.
In a written submission to An Bord Pleanála, An Taisce said the main landmark building was “reminiscent of the Twin Towers in New York, which is completely inappropriate to its location”.
It claimed the building was “out of scale and out of character, ugly and would be an affront to the senses and a glaring eyesore”.
“It would create a real and substantial impediment to the proper planning and sustainable development of Limerick city as a whole,” it said.
Other observers who are due to make submissions include Limerick Chamber, Shannon Group, Limerick Civic Trust, the Irish Georgian Society and the Hunt Museum.
Limerick Chamber chief executive, Dee Ryan (inset), fully endorsed the council plan and said the abandoned site has been a visual reminder of the devastating impact that the recent recession had on the mid-west region.