Landmark Cork hotel site set for major revamp

A former Cork city-centre hotel, with a 207-year pedigree on St Patrick’s St, is to be partly demolished and redeveloped for high-end shops use, possibly with an appeal to the likes of Zara.

The Royal Victoria Hotel on St Patrick Street, Cork city.

Property investor and one-time bookmaker Joe Donnelly, via his company RESAM, this week indicated an intention to redevelop and repurpose the Victoria Hotel site at 35-36 St Patrick’s St, and at 38-39 Cook St.

Originally the Royal Victoria Hotel, the Victoria has had guests and visitors such as Charles Stewart Parnell, Winston Churchill, Michael Collins, and James Joyce.

It hosted the second ever meeting of the Gaelic Athletic Association, in 1884, and in more recent decades was known for its nightclub, Coco’s, and the 1980s Gay Future bar, named after a legendary Cork syndicate horse-racing ‘sting’ on British bookies.

Now, bookmaker turned property investor Joe Donnelly aims to knock much of the Victoria and rebuild to the back and to refurbish the original, historic front/facade and to integrate the two sections into “a new high order retail unit”, of some 25,000 sq ft, over four floors.

The current side entrance to the Victoria Hotel building faces across Cook St, where retail monolith Primark/Penneys is expected to seek planning permission in coming months for a major redevelopment, after a major site assembly along three streets over three years.

Low-profile, Cork-born Mr Donnelly bought the upper floors of the 33-bed Victoria Hotel two years ago for €750,000, and it followed his purchase in the 1990s of the ground floor of the same 1810-built hotel, which had been converted to retail uses.

It previously housed the like of Burgerland, Pizzaland, and Dayvilles after the hotel use retreated upstairs, and later housed Clinton Cards for a while, in a landmark rent-setting deal. Most recently, it has housed fashion chain Monsoon, and Accessorize.

An auction of the contents and fittings of the Victoria Hotel took place on the premises’ dance floor two years ago, after it was sold by the King family who had owned it for several decades.

It’s now wholly in the ownership of the Donnelly family. RESAM Properties lists directors as John Donnelly, Marie Donnelly, and David John Donnelly. Joe Donnelly sold out his bookmaking business in the 1990s, for a reported €27m, and invested in art (buying Picasso, Matisse, De Kooning, and Eileen Gray) and in property, and had substantial investments in Ireland and overseas, including on Paris’s Champs Élysées.

The Victoria Hotel faces the new Opera Lane retail development, and is halfway between the new Capitol retail and office development, and Brown Thomas, while across the street, Nos 83-85 St Patrick’s St have now been amalgamated into one 5,600 sq ft retail unit.

When international fashion retailers viewed Cork’s Capitol development, top Inditex brand Zara was approached, but market sources said Zara would only consider a location near Brown Thomas. The redeveloped Victoria, over four floors, just might suit.

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