Limerick Institute of Technology has unveiled an ambitious €200m master plan to modernise its campus and provide economic stimulus to the entire mid-west region in Ireland between now and 2030. According to sources, the first phase of the programme – worth €20m – up to 2015 has been 80pc funded from undisclosed donors.
The investment will see an additional 50,000 sq feet of facilities, as well as extensive refurbishment of existing facilities.
The plan, entitled the ‘Campus 2030 Masterplan’ is in response to ‘unprecedented growth’ of its campus at Clare Street, as well as expansions of LIT’s enterprise centres and applied research capabilities which were not part of its previous master plans when the campuses were developed in the 1990s.
Sources explained that the first phase of the plan has been 80pc funded from a mixture of private and public funds. The source said the LIT board is confident it will attract the remaining 20pc.
The investment will be spread across LIT’s four campuses – its Moylish Park headquarters; LSAD (Clare Street, Limerick); its LIT Tipperary campus in Thurles and Clonmel – as well as a brand new 7,000 sq-metre new campus at Coonagh, Limerick.
The three Limerick campuses will be renamed after the ancient kingdoms of Munster – Desmond (City Centre), Thomond (Moylish) and Ormond (Coonagh) – where LIT draws the vast majority of its students.
Phase one of the programme will begin next year and will comprise the development of the new Irish Fashion Incubator enterprise centre, and the reinvention of an existing 7,000 sq-foot building as the centrepiece of the new Ormond campus which will create a new gateway to the LIT facilities, as well as to the city.
Other key elements of the project to follow will include LIT’s first student villages for the Ormond and Desmond campuses, as well as an integrated ‘DOT’ (for Desmond, Ormond, Thomond) transport system.
Other aspects will include the development of new civic spaces on all campuses, including Thomond Plaza adjacent to Thomond Park, which will link to the existing Moylish Campus with the famous rugby venue, and at O’Brien Park, Clare Street, which will be linked to LSAD.
The highly ambitious programme is in response to the current capacity challenges at LIT, as well as an anticipated 30pc increase in LIT student numbers, to 9,000, over the period of the plan.
A milestone moment for Limerick and the mid-west
“This is not just a milestone moment for our institute but our city and region as we truly believe that this will be a catalyst in the transformation of Limerick and the wider region,” LIT president Dr Marie Hinfelaar said.
“It’s a milestone for us as we are embarking on an unprecedented level of expansion. It will bring LIT to a new level, by not just dealing with existing capacity issues but facilitating increased demand for places on our undergraduate and post-graduate courses. A good example of the current demand for places at LIT is our School of Art and Design, which is ranked in the top 50 such colleges in the world but has 900 CAO applications for just 200 places each year.
“Satisfying student demand for our courses so that the quality of our infrastructure will match the quality of our teaching, our applied research and our enterprise supports, is the cornerstone objective of this master plan. We are extremely engaged also with the impact it will have on Limerick City Centre, bringing more people and breathing new life into the city core,” Hinfelaar said.
Update – shared vision
We spoke to Jimmy Brown, secretary/financial controller for Limerick Institute of Technology and explained that the €200m masterplan is divided into four phases. He explained that the structure of the plan is to dovetail with other agencies and entities that are seeking to expand in the region and get there in what he hopes will be an exemplar for joined-up thinking.
“At the moment we anticipate up to four phases, with the middle being of seven-year duration.
“The key was having a masterplan and now that’s in place it’s about identifying individual projects.
“A quantum change in student numbers and demand has been projected. Phase 2 will be the biggest phase and will cost in the region of €70m to €80m. Part of the process is creating bite-sized chunks and then build momentum and hope that enough momentum will drive the overall development plan.”
Giving examples, Brown said that discussions have taken place with organisations like Enterprise Ireland and Failte Ireland who also have ambitions for the region.
“It’s about shared vision and joined-up thinking. Remember, this is about the broader population and the region as a whole.”