Cork faces some key planning decisions if goal is civic and economic core to be proud of in 20 years

Cork faces some key planning decisions if goal is civic and economic core to be proud of in 20 years

The recent Irish Open in Lahinch was a powerful reminder that a community working with both private and public institutions can deliver a world class success.

By harnessing the goodwill of a variety of organisations — including state agencies, voluntary organisations and private companies — the small Co Clare town showed that a high calibre outcome, that meets the highest international standards, can be achieved through co-operation.

A similar template is required if large-scale economic initiatives, that can have a material effect on the economy of Ireland, are to be completed.

In the same week as the Irish Open an important development took place in Cork that promises to transform both the city and its docklands.

It was announced that a 31-acre site is potentially changing hands, based on a conditional agreement, between Origin Enterprises and O’Callaghan Properties.

This site has the potential to open up an entirely new dynamic for Cork city by building and developing a unique commercial, residential and retail set of assets along the south of the River Lee heading east from Cork City Hall.

There are already hints of the quality of endeavour that could be involved in this project.

Albert Quay and Navigation Square, both world class commercial properties developed by Cork-based entrepreneurs, have attracted multinational companies to locate large numbers of their employees near the city centre.

By adding hundreds of well paid jobs to locations close to the city’s heart, these buildings bring a hive of activity to hotels, restaurants and shops in the area.

The challenge, now, is to secure the goodwill and support of all relevant parties to advance plans that unlock the potential existing along the riverfront.

It is worthwhile imagining what will define that part of Cork in 10 years time.

More world class commercial offices that can host blue chip Irish and international companies is a first step.

These can deliver the economic heartbeat that would support and complement other investments. The latter must include a suite of residential properties.

Given the site, and how close it is to the city centre, there must be a case for high quality apartment blocks.

These could provide the accommodation for rising numbers of employees while adding, if done with architectural sensitivity, to the vibe by the river.

Replacing industrial buildings and the grain silos would surely add to the life of the city while solutions to accommodation would also alleviate pressures on the public transport system.

None of this will be easy.

The private sector companies that dominate activity currently along the docks are important players.

So, too, is the council, planning authorities and the political system. All of these will have to show a level of co-operation and teamwork that helps progress this initiative.

With Brexit grinding its way forwards it increasingly seems as if the UK will leave the EU before the end of the year but then have a tortuous number of years during which it must secure a new agreement with Europe.

That will create enormous turmoil for corporate investors and long-term planners contemplating European expansion.

Ireland has to position itself as a true alternative to the UK for any company planning to either expand existing operations or build new ones in the European market.

As part of that strategy we need to deploy commercial and residential capacity that allows these roving international investors to choose Ireland for plans that are up to five or 10 years from now.

If Cork wants to continue the powerful momentum evident in the last five years it has to take decisions soon that lay the foundations for developing the city over the next two decades.

If done right, that planning will create employment, boost the population’s morale and shape a city that has both a civic and economic core it can be proud of.

Joe Gill is director of origination and corporate broking with Goodbody Stockbrokers. His views are personal.

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