Secret garden at Nano Nagle Place set to bloom

CORK city’s ‘secret’ garden oasis is set to blossom, as the long-hidden horticultural treasure at the green centre of the new Nano Nagle Place €10.5m heritage, education, and community investment got an unofficial, soft opening yesterday.

Both the charm and import of Nano Nagle Place — with buildings dating to the 1770s — and the imminent confirmation of Cork’s School of Architecture moving alongside to a 45,000 sq ft new building on Douglas St/Evergreen St are now open secrets.

The new city visitor attraction tells the story of Cork city’s evolution and of the founding of the worldwide Presentation Order at this urban location in the 18th century, in a fascinating campus and complex expected to attract up to 20,000 visitors a year once fully established.

The presence of a new cafe — going up for let via Lisney for a late autumn opening — at the heritage centre/mixed use/education facility’s remarkable garden core will help to spread the good news of renewal at an historic Cork inner suburban setting, where even the garden with free access deserves to become a prized asset for city residents and tourists alike.

Following free events here at last month’s Midsummer Festival, yesterday saw the first day soft opening of an interactive heritage centre at the birthplace of the Presentation Order on Douglas St, after a three-year, €10.5 investment across an extraordinary three-acre site.

Largely enclosed and walled-in, it had been virtually unknown to the wider city and citizenry, save for its previous use as the South Pres school.

Now, after partial demolition (largely of a 20th century school block) the wedge-shaped, inner-city site and inviting new open plaza on to Douglas St — just a five- minute walk from the South Mall and city centre — site embraces conserved and repurposed convent, chapel and education buildings, with the heritage/visitor centre in a converted chapel, as well as a new archive section for the religious order with 1,600 sisters in 24 countries worldwide.

It has also provided a Cork design shop (which is curated by Claire Graham of the Old Mill, at Connonagh, Leap), accommodation for a small community of Presentation Sisters, and for two community groups so far, the Lantern Project and the Cork Migrant Centre, as well as having rooms and boardrooms for groups to rent, plus several apartments for short-term lets, including for visiting artists/writers in residence, under the guidance of new CEO Shane Clarke.

The property, whose redevelopment, conservation and new builds was overseen by Jack Coughlan & Associates architects, includes a 30-seat cafe set like a modern jewel by a contemplative garden with water rill, walkways, and wildflower sections, seating and reflective areas, Nano Nagle’s tomb and tribute area, a compact graveyard with serried, identical headstones identifying about 100 Presentation Sisters and, in a separate section, some Presentation Brothers, all in an area bounded by old city streets and a mix of housing dating over three centuries.

Much of the complex, including the gardens (set to be among the best open spaces in a city which has a marked shortage of green lungs and public parks) has free entry and access, with a charge only for visits to the heritage centre,, wiht expressions of interst by August 25set to feature among the itineraries of many school groups in coming years.

Work is rapidly progressing on a new 45,000 sq ft education building at the site’s western end, described officially so far only as a third level education centre.

However, as previously reported here, it is destined to house the joint UCC/CIT School of Architecture, with discussions advancing on a 10-year lease deal, which will see 150 design students and 50 staff relocate from their existing building on Copley St.

Now into this change of use, pace and space comes the offer of the purpose-built cafe deep within the tranquil gardens (see also Irish Examiner Property & Interiors Saturday.

The metal-clad and extensively-glazed cafe goes to market this week with Amanda Isherwood of Lisney, Cork, and is described as fully-fitted, with 30 seats internally, and scope for outdoor garden seating, all ready for immediate occupation. A rent guide of €18,000 pa is indicated, and expressions of interest are sought by August 25.

DETAILS: Lisney 021-4275079

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