You are viewing the content for Thursday 10 January 2013

Savings to be made

CORK City’s oldest bank building, and one of its very finest architectural statements, is a New Year sale offer at €1.2 million.

The 1839-designed Cork Savings Bank on Lapps Quay was for generations known to city savers as the ‘penny bank’ because of its ethos of citizens’ thrift and temperance. But, after several amalgamations, rampant growth and reckless boom time lending, it all suffered the ignominy of a €4bn State bailout, and branch closures — of which Lapps Quay is a stern example of a fall from grace.

As it becomes available for non-banking purposes, the sublime limestone building at 1, Lapps Quay (directly opposite Cork City Hall,) is ideal for civic or corporate ‘statement’ purposes, with exceptionally maintained and proportioned rooms.

The historic bank building closed in November as part of a rationalisation by permanent TSB, ended a banking link going back to 1817 with the founding of the Cork Savings Bank.

Now, the classical limestone building and the adjoining period 16 Parnell Place are offered on behalf of the bank, via agent John Archer of Lisney. He appreciates the rarity, and quality, of what they’ve got to sell, but is unsure of just where a new owner/user may emerge from.

It would be an ideal civic fit for City Hall, or even an amalgamated city/county local authority, for receptions, functions, and exhibitions. Might a civic-minded private benefactor emerge to gift it to the city, and its people who banked there, and to have their name for ever associated with it? It could be a modest price for such an association.

It could suit a tourism use, as no finer calling-card building exists to set visitors on a Gathering odyssey around the city and the south.

Or, might it suit as a corporate HQ? Bord Gáis still has a space and office need in Cork City, with its 56,000 sq ft 2001-built HQ across the river, and occupying several office buildings already along Lapps Quay and at City Quarter.

KBC bank is currently fitting out a period warehouse building practically alongside on Lapps Quay, due to open in several months, but sources say they didn’t want an old-style banking hall for their needs and image.

No 1 Lapps Quay is a protected structure, with specific listing for a number of architectural features, including its immense railings and gates. Its Roman neoclassical design — won in a 1839 competition — is by brothers Sir Thomas Deane and Kearns Deane architects, and it was built at a cost of £11,000 by Thomas Fitzgerald, of Cork limestone, quarried in Beaumont.

Classically restrained, pedimented with pilasters and Ionic columns to the front and to the more austere, longer side facade, it is one of Cork’s finest and best-kept buildings, with its main, three-storey internal banking hall with immaculate plasterwork on 36’ high ceilings, door cases, etc.

There is 7,600 sq ft of quite pristine space in No 1 Lapps Quay and No 16 Parnell Place, with modest private offices to the front of No 1’s entrance hall, with an elegant, double aspect first floor boardroom with lofty sash windows facing south towards City Hall in one direction and to the former AIB branch at 97 South Mall to the west, just across Parnell Place (also on the market, with Downing Commercial for owners TCH.)

No 16 Parnell Place is a fine city building, part-townhouse, part offices, in its own right, only fading by comparison to the sheer appeal and heft of No 1 Lapps Quay.

If one ever wanted an example to illustrate the expression ‘they don’t build them like they used to’ (or, for that matter, run banks like they used to do,) then No 1 Lapps Quay — the Cork Savings Bank is it, set in unsullied Cork limestone.

*Details: Lisney 021-4275079