Go-ahead for Flatiron-style building despite concerns

A 15-storey office block inspired by the iconic Flatiron building on New York’s Fifth Avenue has been granted planning in Cork city centre despite senior planners recommending it be refused due to its height.

The conditional approval for the glass-fronted triangular-shaped Prism building, on a long-time vacant plot on Clontarf St next to the city’s bus station, comes less than a week after Cork City Council granted planning for a 25-storey residential tower on Jacob’s Island near Mahon.

In its submission on the Prism, An Taisce argued the building height was too tall for the location and would have “multiple adverse effects” on several protected views, and on the skyline of the city generally.

Senior planners had similar concerns about the height and recommended the project be refused. But documents seen by the Irish Examiner show the council’s head of planning, Pat Ledwidge, disagreed.

In a report from July requesting further information on the project, he said while the City Development Plan identified the South Docks and South Mahon as areas with the potential to accommodate high buildings, it did not mean they should be resisted in other areas.

He set out “exceptional circumstances” in which ‘tall buildings’ can be accommodated elsewhere and said, in this case, the reasons include the visual quality of the building, its proximity to public transport hubs, and the long-term under-utilisation of the proposed development site.

In his report on Monday granting planning with 36 conditions, Mr Ledwidge said the assessment of the proposal’s impact on views does not demonstrate the impact will be negative, particularly when considered in the context of proposals already approved nearby.

“The proposed building itself demonstrates high-quality design and will be a positive addition to the city-scape,” he said.

Among the conditions he imposed is that the building be limited to the specific design and materials proposed given the “visual quality” of the proposal.

The Prism developers, Kerrymen Kevin and Donal O’Sullivan, who are also advancing plans for the redevelopment of the nearby Port of Cork, Custom House site, welcomed the decision.

However, a spokesman said they will be making no public comment until the 30-day window for a possible appeal closes.

Pending completion of the planning process, it is hoped work could start on site before the end of the first quarter next year, with up to 300 construction jobs provided during the 16-month build period.

The O’Sullivan brothers’ €250m redevelopment plans for the former Port of Cork, Custom House site nearby include proposals for an even taller structure.

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