Cost of conserving Cork's 200-year-old Bonded Warehouses in new development may rise above €25m

Cost of conserving Cork's 200-year-old Bonded Warehouses in new development may rise above €25m

Conserving and adapting Cork city's protected 200-year-old Bonded Warehouses to new uses at the planned 34-storey, hotel tower site at the Port of Cork/Custom House Quay may take more than €25m of the overall estimated €150m development budget, it has been revealed.

Those uses will include cultural, heritage and harbour-related themes, niche retail, cafe and bars, and a new public realm on the south side and within the internally adapted, low-slung three-storey Bonded Warehouses.

According to former Cork Harbourmaster, Captain Michael McCarthy, who is now on board with US-based Tower Holdings Group as an advisor, those cultural uses will tie in as part of a harbour heritage or maritime "string of pearls", to complement Cobh's Titanic Centre, Spike Island, Camden's fort, and Haulbowline and other centres, following discussions with City Hall, and Fáilte Ireland.

The pivotal River Lee site fronting both river channels will continue to have the marina on the southern side, and its north quays will take small cruise ships, naval vessels, marine institute ships, and river ferries, added Capt McCarthy.

At one early proposal stage, the development budget had looked like growing to as much as €250m, before being replanned and 'scaled back' to around €150m, with a new design and development team appointed, headed by international design firm Gensler, which employs 5,000 architects.

The location of the 140 metre/450' tall hotel has moved from the very 'tip' of the city's 'island,' to become integrated with the classical 1818-built Cork Harbour Commissioners' building, said Conor Lee, director of operations (Ireland) for Tower Holdings, in advance of pre-planning public display sessions this weekend, with a target start date of 2021/22, if granted planning.

The decision to set the tower back from the island's point was made after consultation with City Hall officials, keen to protect downriver views from public areas of the site and other quays, and to ensure that the Custom House/CHC building (also a protected structure) will have a viable role in the new hotel.

The move to the site's city end avoids wayleaves [the running of pipes and services over, through or under the property]. And while the project was initially planned to include offices, apartments and a hotel in an up to 40-storey tower, the main focus now is a hotel.

Early discussions have taken place with four prospective hotel operators, or 'flags', some already in Ireland, said Mr Lee, and those hotelier discussions informed elements of the design/layout.

The site's unique heritage and setting, and its planned cultural uses is key to the hotel's market and operation, added Mr Lee, indicating that it will be run to a “four-star+” standard.

The tower envisages 240 bedrooms, 25 serviced apartments, 10 lifts, a Sky or 'crown' bar and restaurant, small swimming pool, gym and spa, plus a 300-person ballroom.

“After the discussions and changes to date, we're very happy now that it works,” said Conor Lee.

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