City’s retailers urged to change with the times

John Cleary, South Mall.

One of Cork’s most prolific developers has said the city will be a “very vibrant place” within the next 12-18 months.

John Cleary of JCD is developing new Cork City office blocks which will house thousands of workers within months and he has urged retailers to tweak their offering and seize the opportunity. He also said bus lanes are vital to delivering a functioning public transport system — one of the basic requirements, alongside housing, to attract investment and jobs.

“Retail is changing. That’s not just a Cork or Irish phenomenon, it’s an international situation. People need to realise that you change with it,” he said. Mr Cleary was speaking yesterday as US cybersecurity firm, Forcepoint, moved into its new centre of excellence at 85 South Mall, developed by JCD. The office has capacity for 400 workers. Forcepoint had been based in JCD’s One Albert Quay since last June until its relocation yesterday. With 70 staff already in place, the firm plans to recruit up to 100 more this year.

KPMG is due to move into other floors in the same building later this year. JCD has also repaved the adjoining Crane Lane, Phoenix St and Smith St to rejuvenate an entire city block.

“This building will house up to 400 people in the next four to five months. And the improvements to the public realm are really positive. We’re giving back to the city a block that was never really used that much,” Mr Cleary said.

Entrance to Eighty5, South Mall. Picture: Denis Minihane.

In recent years, JCD has completed several high-profile city projects including One Albert Quay, The Capitol, the full occupation of 89/90 South Mall, the restoration and occupation of 97 South Mall, and now 85 South Mall. Combined, almost 2,000 people are employed in these buildings. The firm is a month ahead of schedule on its massive 450,000sq ft Penrose Dock office campus, which has potential to house 2,500 workers, and it is considering proposals for the landmark Sextant bar and Carey’s Lane docklands site.

“With Navigation Square completing its first building soon, and the Dean Hotel under way on Horgan’s Quay, it’s clear that the private sector is investing a lot in the city centre — the positives are palpable,” Mr Cleary said. “Fast-forward 12 to 18 months, I think the city centre is going to be a very vibrant place.

“There was a little bit of unrest in relation to bus corridors, but for the level of growth and employment opportunities coming to the city, functioning bus lanes and public transport is a critical part of that. It’s about the sum of all the pieces. A functioning public transport system is very important, but access to quality residential accommodation is also very important.

“Dublin is very constrained from an infrastructure perspective and I believe there is a unique opportunity now for Cork to move forward and to keep attracting the jobs and get the retail offering adjusted to suit those jobs. You’ve got thousands of new people working in the city centre every day, and that produces an opportunity for retailers to attract those customers, but it’s up to the retailers to do that themselves.

“To be fair to the retailers, they’ve just come out of a really difficult recession, difficult for all of us, but the opportunities are going to be there with a slight rethink in relation to the retail offering.

“The footfall will be different — more of an office, city occupier rather than a transient customer — so maybe they need to relook at it, but the important message is the opportunity is going to be there for them.”

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