Sketchbook

Thoughts on the Georgian Centre of Limerick

The revitalisation of the historic Georgian core of the city is the essential ingredient of the future development of Limerick as a thriving and sustainable city region. The Georgian blocks and their connecting walkable lanes and streets have defined the city for over 200 years. The vibrancy and liveability of this area will be critical to the success of the city and the region in the future.

The Georgian core of Limerick shares with the Georgian squares of Dublin one key disadvantage, few people want to live there. The middle classes have long abandoned urban living for the “leafy” suburbs. For a time they maintained the buildings as offices for the professional classes, but use is now diminishing as the technological requirements to service a modern business are not suited to the Georgian building stock.

A belief has developed that the cost of ongoing maintenance of these buildings is prohibitive and that the uncertainty about Limerick City Councils conservation policies, the strict application of building control and especially fire safety regulations to the upgrading of these buildings all militate against investment.

Small wonder then that Richard Rogers statement “Cities are the places where people meet to exchange ideas, trade or simply relax and enjoy themselves. A city’s domain, streets, squares and parks, is the stage and catalyst for those activities” looks a distant dream.

This need not be so. A vibrant city core with a strong cultural ethos will strengthen Limerick’s appeal to multinational companies and universities who are striving to attract the best and brightest talent to work for them.

Economically the building stock represents very good value in comparison to other residential options, thanks to the collapse of the market in recent years. The key is to attract the middle class back into the city centre. The middle class expect, indeed demand, well kept clean, friendly and safe streets.

Entertainment, leisure activity, open spaces, roof gardens, meeting places, coffee shops where residents can hang out and meet each other and socialise without hassle are essential and define urban living at its best and contrasts favourably with suburban isolation.

The City Council must give decisive leadership and facilitate the development of the Georgian core by the appointment of a “Czar” to head up the campaign to unravel the imponderables relating to conservation areas by co-ordinating the planning, fire and parking issues, so that certainty is given to potential investors.

The urban fabric surrounding the Georgian core is excellent and makes car ownership an option rather than a necessity. The involvement of the University will be critical in the encouragement of senior staff to consider investing and living in the buildings but more importantly by acquiring some of the best stock and renting to key staff. It would make economic sense in the present marketplace and they could have the choice of selecting the best areas to invest in.

The major multinational companies in the area could possibly be attracted to the idea of being key investors in the renaissance of the city core, which will add to the quality of life of their present and future staff. The creation of a critical mass will have the effect of attracting individual investors as they see the city centre revived.