Robin Lee Architecture have been appointed by Tipperary County Council to lead the design team in respect of the Rialto Project, Nenagh which was awarded funding under the Rural Regeneration Development Fund (RRDF) as announced by Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, in 2022.
Also forming part of the design team are Cora Consulting Engineers, Civil & Structural Engineers; Delap & Waller, Mechanical & Engineering Consultants and Nolan Construction Consultants, Quantity Surveyors, with the support of a number of other specialist service providers.
The funding under Category 2 of the Rural Regeneration Development Fund will allow the project to be progressed through design and planning and brought to the point where an application can be made for Category 1 funding to carry out the works.
The main focus of allocations under this fund is the rejuvenation of town centres, driving economic growth and footfall, combatting dereliction and boosting tourism in Rural Ireland.
The former Rialto Cinema, which is a protected structure, was acquired by Tipperary County Council in December 2020. The ‘Rialto Digital and Enterprise Hub’ project is an exemplar sustainable, town centre regeneration project that will engage in place-making and revitalise the town centre of Nenagh through provision of much needed incubator enterprise space, public realm enhancement and the redevelopment of a back-land brownfield site through planning for the delivery of town centre homes.
There are two key elements in terms of design and project delivery for the building and the backlands site. Firstly, the project vision is of an iconic cinema building, re-imagined with sensitive works to conservation best practice principles and appropriate modern architectural intervention to provide excellent office, collaboration and meeting spaces, in flexible open plan and sub divisible arrangements in an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable way. Secondly, it is intended to build residential units to the rear of the Rialto in the storage area previously used by Sheahan’s hardware that will bring a 24 hour use to the site and ground level, medium density, age friendly housing style accommodation in parallel with additional enterprise office expansion potential.
The Design Team are tasked with setting out the best ways to unlock not only the potential of the Rialto, but that of surrounding redevelopment and regeneration opportunity sites by exploring the rebuilding of the Emmet Place frontage and the creation of a permeable development of appropriate density and scale with new links from Banba Square to Emmet Place and Ashe Road. They will prepare world class innovative designs for the project which will be progressed by the Local Authority under Part 8 of the Planning and Development Regulations and will allow for public consultation on the project in 2023.
Cllr. Roger Kennedy, Cathaoirleach of Tipperary County Council, welcomed the signing of the contracts for the project and said “Tipperary County Council has secured substantial funding through Project Ireland 2040 under both the RRDF and the URDF and this is enabling us to progress transformational projects that are ambitious and innovative which will be a significant investment in our towns”.
Cllr. Hughie McGrath, Cathaoirleach of Nenagh Municipal District said ‘the Rialto building is an important part of the fabric of Nenagh Town and is located in a prime location. A lot of the people of Nenagh have nostalgic memories of its use as a Cinema. I welcome the acquisition of the site by Tipperary County Council and that plans are now being advanced to bring it back into use in a manner that will protect its character while also providing a much-needed facility in the town”.
At the signing of the contract with Robin Lee Architecture, Joe MacGrath, Chief Executive with Tipperary County Council, commented that “this project will become a fourth pillar in the proposals for the Historic & Cultural Quarter of Nenagh and will complement the substantial investment in the public realm and infrastructure of the town. The proposals will be transformational for the town centre while still ensuring that the heritage architecture of the former Rialto is maintained and that a vacant iconic building is brought back into productive use. The Rialto is an ideal location for this purpose and will generate significant footfall that will benefit local businesses as well as facilitating local enterprise”.
(L to R) Cllr. Hughie McGrath, Cathaoirleach, Nenagh Municipal District; Joe MacGrath, Chief Executive; Cllr. Roger Kennedy, Cathaoirleach, Tipperary County Council; Robin Lee, Robin Lee Architecture (Lead Architect, Design Team)