Ambitious plans are unveiled this week to transform two prominent empty Portlaoise buildings into social housing and multiple community spaces and return life to the town centre.
A conversion of the old Presentation convent and the Sacred Heart school along with building new apartment blocks will create 48 apartments and four new houses, in a redesign proposed by Laois County Council and two approved housing bodies.
They also plan to create public parkland, a plaza, community gardens and play areas.
Sophia Housing Association Ltd and Co-operative Housing Ireland are developing the site. It was approved for €10.06 million government funding in July 2018. It will house Laois County Council tenants.
The 1.35ha site includes land where the old Portlaoise church once stood, and runs from Church Avenue back as far as the Triogue river. More recent structures at the back of the convent, and prefabs are to be demolished.
Nine apartments will go in the old convent, a protected structure called Block A. This includes three single bedroom apartments and six two bed apartments, totalling 785 sqm.
The convent will also get some community spaces.
Block B the Ha’Penny Babies will be purely for community use, 66.645sqm over an existing single storey building.
The main two storey school Block C will be turned into four single bedroom apartments covering 219.525sqm and community space of 334.66sqm.
Three new apartment blocks are planned. Block D is to have five two bedroom apartments totalling 285.945sqm, over 2 and 3 stories.
Block E will have 18 two bedroom apartments and five single bed apartments totalling 1547.64sqm, and community space of 66.955sqm over two and three stories.
Block F will have five one bedroom apartments as well as four two bedroom houses totalling 607.245sqm over two and three storey terrace and block buildings.
The development includes foul and surface water drainage, footpaths, landscaped open spaces, passive and active areas including a new public parkland to the rear of the convent, new public plaza and pedestrian linkages to the Triogue River, community gardens and play areas.
There will be 26 parking spaces including four disabled spaces, and 60 bike parking spaces in three bike shelters.
The nuns left the 19th century convent in 2000. Their plan with Sophia Housing to convert it for social housing failed after local objections. It was damaged by fires in 2013 and 2015 and then boarded up.
Sacred Heart NS was vacated in 2017. The site was put on sale jointly with neighbouring parish land in 2016 for €2.5million. The parish land remains for sale.
The Presentation Provincialate and the council both have expressed hopes that the development will breathe new life into Portlaoise town centre.
The plan is a Part 8 planning procedure which means it will be put before councillors for approval. The council say an Environmental Impact Assessment was deemed not required.
The plans are on public view in Laois County Council reception from Wednesday December 11 until January 16 with public submissions accepted until January 30.
The planning advertisement is in this week's Leinster Express newspaper classified section.