A site in Shannon Town Centre has been identified for a proposed €5 million multi-functional arts and civic centre for the town.
Former Shannon Development chief executive officer, Kevin Thompstone, Derek Barrett of Peach Recruitment and local businessman Eoin Hoctor have devised a plan to provide a new civic building for the town.
They are hoping a public-private partnership approach can be developed for the concept, secure a suitable site, finalise a strategic plan, design, finance, deliver and manage a sustainable focal civic space for residents and visitors.
Entitled The Venue: Shannon, the proposed 350-seat theatre would include a tourist office, rehearsal rooms, the Shannon School of Music and Dance, arts studio, education and hire, exhibition space, meeting rooms, an intimate section with 50 to 60 retractable seats, photography studio and broadcast studio.
If their ambitious plans come to fruition, the new building would accommodate music concerts, comedy gigs, an Irish-themed show commissioned for the summer months, arts workshops, community meetings, civil partnerships/ courthouse/registry office, plays, film club, an annual international festival, rehearsals, conferences and private functions and community radio.
It is envisaged the trio will develop into a larger working group from the community to guide the development, delivery and operation of the project.
Seven potential sites around Shannon were examined including Drumgeely Hall, Tullyvarraga Hall, Old Airport Boiler House, Shannon Free Zone, Town Centre, Town Centre TCO, Shannon Leisure Centre and Town Centre TCO1 Site A.
Town Centre TCO1 Site A was identified as providing the best opportunity to develop an iconic building, with the possibility of adding to the usage of existing activities.
This site of .63 acres is located at Shannon Town Centre. It is in the designated TCO1 town centre area and was the subject of a planning approval for retail and car parking as part of the SkyCourt development.
The developers recently returned control of the site to the owner, Shannon Development. It has all the services and infrastructure with adequate car parking, particularly for evening use.
According to the promoters, it is in the heart of the town, central to everyone and easy for visitors to find. This usage would be compatible with planning designation and the site is in public ownership.
There is apparently little interest in developing it for retail space, as there is an abundance of units and land zoned in the centre already.
Considering the site is currently undeveloped and surrounded by builders’ hoardings, The Venue provides the potential to transform the area to vibrant community and public use, they claimed.
The proposed development would contribute to the completion of the town centre development and help to bring footfall and activity to the area.
It would also contribute to the goals of the latest draft of the Draft Shannon Town Environs Local Area Plan 2012 to 2018 and is in line with the activities proposed for the area.
Preliminary discussions with Shannon Development on the principle of locating the centre on this site has been positive to date.
One of the main objectives is to operate The Venue as a not-for-profit entity, free of long-term debt, financially sustainable, operationally flexible and focussed on the social and cultural needs of the community.
This could be achieved by setting up a new partnership body between community, public and private bodies with a commitment to the development of the artistic, cultural and civic life of Shannon and its people.
Charitable status will be sought to increase potential amounts and sources of funding.
The establishment of proper governance structures should ensure the long-term sustainability of the project on behalf of Shannon people and those who invest funds in the centre.
As part of the extensive research process, information was collected from visits to and contact with a large number of arts and theatre venues throughout Ireland.
The majority of these venues are owned or controlled by public bodies.
They are usually initiated or led by voluntary or community activists and the corporate structure tends to be company limited by guarantee with charity status.
A new steering group or board with a maximum of between six and eight people with requisite skills and experience could be established to run the centre.