I was delighted to launch a new report by Limerick Chamber today that proposes a range of short-term and long-term incentives and initiatives to reinvigorate our city centre. After consultation and meetings with stakeholders and ratepayers throughout the city we have come up with a range of new and exciting measures which if nsupported by government, we believe will immediately address the current situation of decline in the city centre, but will also create a long-term vision and strategy for our city in the future.

In the immediate term we believe commercial rates in the city need to be reduced by 25% in 2011. Considering Limerick City has the highest rate in Ireland (20% above the national average) a reduction of this amount will only bring us in line with the rest of the country! We are also proposing a rates rebate scheme for new tenants taking up vacant units which could be adapted to include existing businesses who wish to improve the facade of their premises or are expanding. An initiative like this is badly needed. We did an audit of city centre retail units at the end of August and counted 54 premises which have closed their doors in the past 12 months, in additional to 17 that have been  closed for 12 months or more.

In the long-term a vision for the city needs to be developed. We believe this is best achieved through zoning the city centre – this reduces the risk and costs associated with development and will attract investment, and much-needed retailers, into the city centre. The zoning would be similar to the strategic development zone model that was applied in Temple Bar in the early 90’s – although what we are proposing for Limerick needs to be a more flexible model.

We have sent a copy of our report to all stakeholders in the region as well as local and national politicians. We believe that the situation in Limerick City is very serious and action needs to be taken immediately to address the current rate of decline. A copy of our full report is available on the Chamber website at www.limerickchamber.ie. Please click on and have a read, it is a comprehensive report and the more people and organisations that support it the greater chance we have of seeing change in our city!