Thursday 23 January 2020

10,000 homes to be built on State land will be 'a model of urban renewal'

A 10,000-unit housing scheme is being planned on a huge site composed of derelict and underused CIÉ, hospital and local authority plots. Stock Image: Bloomberg
A 10,000-unit housing scheme is being planned on a huge site composed of derelict and underused CIÉ, hospital and local authority plots. Stock Image: Bloomberg

Shawn Pogatchnik

A 10,000-unit housing scheme is being planned on a huge site composed of derelict and underused CIÉ, hospital and local authority plots.

The project in Limerick is being billed as a model for urban renewal. The Land Development Agency (LDA) has carved out the 50-hectare (123.5-acre) site close to Limerick's main train and bus station on a patchwork of sites all in State hands.

The LDA yesterday signed an agreement with the land owners and an architectural team will now draw up a master plan for the scheme.

The LDA, led by former Department of Finance secretary John Moran, an outspoken lobbyist for urban renewal in Limerick, was formed to identify State lands that could be exploited for housing and urban regeneration.

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It is not clear how much of the planned Limerick development will be built and paid for directly by Government, or whether parts of the site will be sold or leased to private developers and, if so, on what terms.

The eventual mix of public, private, social and affordable housing also has not been determined.

But Mr Moran told the Irish Independent the site could easily accommodate 10,000 housing units, with the potential to build leisure facilities and bicycle paths above existing railway infrastructure - effectively turning the current above-ground train lines into tunnels.

"Residents of this future development should be able to walk or bicycle everywhere they want to go. And that money saved on car-free living will go straight into their pockets," he said.

He said construction could take two years to begin and a decade to complete. It would be publicly financed from the start but would attract potentially billions of euro in private investment, including for retail units and a hotel.

The brownfield development site assembled by the LDA includes adjoining plots and facilities owned by Limerick City and County Council, the Health Service Executive (HSE) and semi-state transport company CIÉ, all of whom retain ownership of their land.

Yesterday's deal authorises a Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland design team led by RIAI president David Browne to produce a masterplan by the summer.

"The key here is not to just chop it up and give it to developers," Mr Moran said. "We want to get the infrastructure and services in beforehand.

"Because this land belongs to the State, every euro we spend to put in services and infrastructure will increase the land value for the State. So even if parcels are sold off or offered under licence for people to build for 100 years, or 300 years, then we retain that increase in value for the State."

Limerick local authority chief executive Pat Daly said it would be "hugely transformative" for the city centre and strengthen the "economic powerhouse of the mid-west".

Irish Independent

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