Limerick: O’Connell Street revitalisation scheme
Posted by Zoe Coleman
It is the Georgian period of construction that gives Limerick its unique historic character, which sets it apart from other towns and cities in Ireland. In 1834 Inglis, a travel writer compared Limerick to Dublin and Cork, writing ‘the new town of Limerick is, unquestionably, superior to anything out of Dublin. It’s principal street, although less picturesque than the chief streets of Cork, would generally be reckoned a finer street.’
It is this spectacular street that was the subject of John Moran’s call for a new and exciting vision for Limerick’s central spine. (Limerick Leader 28th January, 2017).
What is it that attracts us to certain cities in Europe and around the world? As an architect and historian, of course I am excited about cities that have beautiful historic architecture, public squares, walk-able, people-friendly streets. But what is more attractive is the culture and energy of these streets, people eating, meeting, talking, shopping, laughing, playing, diverse communities in ‘liveable’ cities. And that is not to say that we don’t have vibrant public spaces in Limerick. You only have to go along to the milk market on a Saturday morning to see people doing those self same things, a vibrant happy community.
We now have a wonderful opportunity to extend this vibrancy and liveability to Newtown Pery, via our living spine ‘O’Connell Street’. Let’s remember the Crescent on a fine July evening last summer, when the Limerick 2020 street party attracted huge crowds for a food, culture and performance. The Crescent is a natural civic space in Limerick’s historic city centre. It forms a termination to O’Connell Street and could act as an anchor for revitalising this part of the city. At present, this fantastic space cannot be appreciated, as you need all your attention to avoid the traffic. The Crescent commands a superb view down O’Connell Street, which could only be enjoyed if the space was traffic free.
The Crescent has all the key ingredients of a great multifunctional public space, where communities can get together, to live, work, meet each other and celebrate. The space could have outdoor cafes or restaurants, be sometimes quiet and at other times have music or performances. It could be a greener place where children play, people sit and watch the world go by and others have extended conversations. The multi-use of the buildings on and around the Crescent and extending to Newtown Pery, would attract a broad demographic of people, with a variety of offices, shops, cafes, apartments and houses.
You can walk from one end of O’Connell Street to the other with ease. With a focus on pedestrian priority, great public spaces, beautiful streets with trees, restored historic features and attractive lighting, Newtown Pery would be an extraordinary urban centre. Limerick could become a most desirable and sought after place to work and to live, both socially and ecologically healthy. Wouldn’t it be fantastic for the Crescent to be made into a beautiful public space for the citizens of Limerick?
Ailish Drake is director at Drake Hourigan Architects and Chair of the Limerick Chapter of the Irish Georgian Society.
Article from Limerick Leader, 4th February 2017