Wednesday, 13 July 2011
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
Walking up Catherine St today I stopped to read a planning application on the wall of two adjacent Georgian building barely standing in a state of total disrepair. The applications date back to 2008 and reading them I was reminded of that halcyon era when development of property was the order of the day.
Despite erecting architecturally impressive and shiny buildings on our riverfront (turning our back on the river in the process), Limerick can be proud in the knowledge that we really didn’t make hay while the sun shone during the days of property development fanaticism. In fact we can take bow for actually managing to fall into a deeper state of shabbiness as other Irish cities enjoyed makeovers.
The buildings on Catherine St are just two of many along that little stretch in the city centre that have fallen into utter dereliction. The site of the old Daffys pub is slowly getting there. The entire block where the Desmond Arms once stood is a daily reminder of the Celtic Tiger bypass of Limerick. I noticed these very much dated planning applications on a date when I read with sadness the news that the future of the beautiful Georgian House is now uncertain.
The Georgian House was restored by Limerick Civic Trust 13 years ago to showcase Georgian Limerick. It seems that the building, despite is attractiveness and despite it’s pleasant location, is simply not sustainable. I can only put this down to the fact that tourists ain’t coming to the city.
Now ironically, the restoration of the Georgian House was happening at a time when Castle Lane was being developed adjacent to King John’s Castle. I was the first singer to work at Castle Lane as part of a cast performing a show developed by Shannon Heritage and marketed to a similar audience as their other entertainment offers – Bunratty, Knappogue and Dunguaire.
Shannon Heritage/Development quickly realised the project was unsustainable. I moved away from Limerick and, upon my return 11 years later, found myself at a loose end. I walked up to Castle Lane and found it in a state of shutdown, the gift shop gone, the tavern boarded up and graffittied, destined for a derelict state similiar to those buildings on Catherine Street. I stood on the grass verge on the banks of the Shannon, taking in what I consider to be the most beautiful vista of the city and the Shannon, and wondered how so much money could be spent on a development next to a wonderful castle only for it not to work. How could the Castle Lane development fall into disrepair after only 13 years?
Shannon Development are now about to redevelop the site for the second time. I have read the proposals. I am intrigued by consideration being given to the “use the latest in technology to highlight the story of the River Shannon, the Viking history of Limerick including a longboat" and they plan "to project water onto the floor to make it look like you’re walking through the Shannon”.
A mock river waterfeature, is it? Do we not have a real, wide and animated waterfeature running through the heart of the city, not 30 yards from Castle Lane itself. As we listen to the sounds of the mock river waterfeature (via the 'latest technology') rippling through the new Castle Lane we can also listen to (correct me if I’m wrong) the likes of Paul O’Connell filling us in on the history of Limerick city. No historical attraction in Limerick is of course complete without our sporting legends throwing in their tuppence worth.
Call me a cynic but I question what lessons have been learned from the last Castle Lane development. I also question any body which basically evicts a city’s museum in order to spend their €6 million grant sensibly.
There is an old French proverb that goes along the lines of: the more things change, the more things stay the same. The Celtic Tiger has come and gone since Castle Lane was previously developed, since the Georgian House was restored to its former glory. Could it be said that Limerick now needs to stand back, take stock and think about where things are going wrong before investing money into new projects destined for failure?