Transcript from recent lecture given by Tom McEnery of the Irish Technology Leadership Group
There have been recent articles about the city of Limerick, a city that I have been visiting since 1965. I like the city very much and I have watched a number of transitions. The latest transition which I thought had been going well until a few years ago seems to have gone awry and is repeating a very familiar theme that happened in America to many of our major cities. Centrifocal forces, suburbanisation, highways, housing all pushed so much of the retail and development unto the fringe, the edge of the city, the suburbs, that centre cities were left behind.
In downtown Limerick- the centre city- this is surely the case. Empty store fronts , social problems, the businesses that are there having great difficulty surviving. This is a movie we have seen before in America and it is a horror movie.
There are ways to deal with this. In America, in the city of San Jose, we learned as well. But we learned that it was very costly to build on the periphery, that you have to control things through planning and through zoning and through the way the city or the governemnt uses it’s resources in highways and housing subsidies etc. But we all know the painful lessons that Ireland has learned, I hope. What happened in its financial and real estate boom and bust. You can see that mirrored closely in Limerick.
What happened in limerick is that the donut, the outside, was zoned and was allowed to occur. It came not only at the expense of downtown businesses but it came at the expense of every single resident in the downtown Limerick area. This should not have been allowed. They should have seen history and understood it.
Joyce said: “History is a nightmare we are trying to awaken from". In Limerick, in donuts and in the development that was missed in the centre city while planning and other zoning decisions were made on the periphery and now are in great deal of problems as are the rest of the Irish real estate world, we really see it coming full circle. All they had to do was look at America all they had to do was look at the mistakes and the successes in the city of San Jose. They would have controlled that development, they would have allowed it first in the centre city building up places where roads and taxes and the police and other services were already in place and not allowing it to run amok as it did.
It is a sad story. It is one which I hope Limerick can recover from. But in centre cities of America – the Los Angeles’, the Clevelands , the San Joses’, the Dallas’, the Detroits and the Atlantas it has been a very painful lesson.
It is happening in Ireland and they should have known better.