A penthouse for the super-prime market

A penthouse for the super-prime market
19 The Sherkin, a three-bed apartment in the sharply angular apartment block at Lancaster Gate, Cork

“They won’t be building apartments like this ever again in Cork,” asserts the owner of this city-centre penthouse apartment, back to market with a €1 million price guide — and, that’s almost exactly what it first sold for, brand new, back in 2007, before the financial, property and construction meltdown.

A penthouse for the super-prime market

Now, given the events of the past few weeks, and the uncertainty yet to play out and find shape with a blow to the country’s economy, as well as health status, it might not seem the best time to be offering a Cork city apartment for sale asking ‘the Big Note’ — but, then again, it only needs the one buyer, for whose needs it could be the perfect fit.

So, think someone with strong buying power, on the hunt for a Cork base or full-time home, and one where price is less important than cutting edge design, convenience, comfort, and security, and views from its roof-top level that span up and down the Lee Valley, and much, much more of localised interest and intrigue.

Welcome, then, to 19, The Sherkin, a top/floor six three-bed apartment in the sharply angular apartment block at Lancaster Gate, a double/triple aspect unit with its sharp nose facing north, like the point of the Concorde.

A penthouse for the super-prime market

No 19 touches down at a location along the River Lee’s south channel on Lancaster Quay about half way between the city centre and the stunning UCC campus. City amenities are abundant, on its doorstep, all within a walk, and for those trips further afield, the home comes with two basement car parking spaces. One of those two spaces has just had its own electric car charging point fitted, at a not-insignificant cost of €5,000. You’d still buy a fairly decent fossil-fuelled family car for the cost of that ‘socket,’ though.....

High-end also in every other respect, the 2,024 sq ft penthouse’s calculated floor area includes nearly 400 sq ft of outdoor balcony, so think 1,600/1,700 sq ft of ‘real’ internal accommodation, for practical comparison sakes.

While the €1m price tag is high, for Cork, compare to some of Dublin’s biggest and best, with many in the ‘super-prime’ or multi-million euro category, especially in the Ballsbridge hinterland, where one, of 3,700 sq ft at Lansdowne Place, was reportedly sold at construction stage two years ago for a reported €6.5 million.

Cork’s No 19 The Sherkin last sold only two years ago, to an existing apartment owner at the O’Callaghan Properties’ developed Lancaster Quay development. An entrepreneur in the beauty industry, he’d already been a long-time resident here, in apartment No 11 in the same Sherkin building, and wanted to ‘trade-up’, and go up a literal level too in the very same building, to create the ultimate bachelor pad in his native Cork.

A penthouse for the super-prime market

He sold No 11 The Sherkin, and it shows on the Price Register at €640,000 back in 2018. At the same time, he bought The Sherkin’s crowning glory that is No 19, for €780,000....and then spent close to a further €200,000 on it. As one does.

It goes to market this uncertain month with estate agent Trevor O’Sullivan of Coldwell Banker-Carlton Estates, who also sold No 11 at the €640,000 mark back in ’18 for the same vendor.

Trevor O’Sullivan reckons its buyer will have an international connection, whether native Irish or not, who wants just about the best that can be bought in Cork, and able to lock up and leave as needs be, in super security and privacy.

A penthouse for the super-prime market

A buyer’s background could be business, IT, financial sector, or even sports.

Heck, it’s even been quite the while since that old staple of property gossip, at the market’s upper echelons, the ‘Roy Keane’ factor got floated. And, sure didn’t Mr Keane tell the nation via that latest, great Late Late Show interview connected to his role as Irish Guide Dogs ambassador that his native Cork would feature in his future residency plans?

Apartment living mightn’t suit Roy Keane, as a noted dog lover and currently the proud owner of a German Shepherd, but if the dogs had to spend some time here at the ‘pethouse/penthouse’, at least there’s a choice of balconies, a small breakfast sit-out area by the kitchen and dining area facing east and the city, and a long one facing west, for a bit of fresh air taking.

That west-facing balcony is a good size, nearly 50 feet, and so is more than big enough for sitting and eating out at, and, true to form for a lush pad, it even includes a stretch of putting green, with three holes and gradient changes for a bit of outdoor larking. What the guests on the top floor bedrooms in the River Lee Hotel, alongside to the east, make of the putting green is unrecorded.

A penthouse for the super-prime market

Built on the site of the old Jurys Hotel in the early to mid-2000s, developers O’Callaghan Properties (OCP) delivered a mix of hotel and apartments here, and when Lancaster Gate went to the open market in 2007, it had 1,000 registered residential inquiries and 40 pre-sales.

No 19 was about tops, at a reported €1.001m (in pre-Price Register days), bought by a Cork man with three daughters in UCC, but, of course and in 2020 hindsight, that momentum was never going to last.

Development on the Lancaster Quay site slowed; unsold apartments were rented, and at one stage plans were mooted for a private hospital to be built instead of the final, unstarted apartment block. (Work has now started back on, a decade-plus later on after ‘the crash,’ and developing this block was only justified in cost terms given that the base was already in place. Other than that, the private ‘apartments for sale’ market in Cork is largely still non-viable, say developers. And few, if any will be rushing to build €1m penthouses right now, or anytime soon

Back around the same 2007/’08 time, OPC also completed the Opera Lane new retail scheme on Cork’s St Patrick’s Street, with glitzy apartments and a mix of penthouses too, all of which went straight to the rental market.

A penthouse for the super-prime market

Rental was the route too for the swish scheme Altus, by Sunday’s Well, done by Cumnor Construction, as was the Killarney-based O’Donoghue family’s apartments development on Cornmarket Street, above TKMaxx.

Lancaster Gate’s The Sherkin’s best units can hold their heads up with the best of those roughly contemporaneous apartment schemes as well as with the best in the 17-storey Elysian by Cork City Hall, done by O’Flynn Construction. O’Flynns also produced a small clutch of top notch, very large apartments in their suburban Elden development off Maryborough Hill.

So for those into the possible bragging rights hunt for ownership of ‘the best around’ in Cork’s apartment stakes, it sort of comes down to things like personal locational preferences.

Suburban Douglas at Elden?

Towering ambitions and city nexus vistas at the Elysian? (Only a handful here ever sold privately, including one in 2008 for a reported €2m to an East Cork family in the oil business.) South city aspected sun-trap basking at Altus?

There’s a handful of other more ‘singular’, contenders, including a one-off, top floor residential conversion, done near St Luke’s Cross/Montenotte, at Harty’s Quay, and a double aspect ‘Grand Palais’ unit at Blackrock House, in the former Ursuline Convent period gem. Seek out one of these?

Or, there’s a clutch at Lancaster Gate, with the acutely angular and thrusting 19 The Sherkin quite possibly the leading top dog (though one sale recorded, at 64 The Fastnet about three years might indicate something special there also, at a price of €760,000.) So let’s turn the spotlight focus on the one that’s just now available, albeit at its assertive €1m price guide: what bang do you get for these bucks?

Well, for starters, you can get pretty much everything you see in these pictures, from the crockery and the ware to the Venables & Son baby grand piano to much of the art work (bar, maybe, three retro-style motoring-themed art prints from very limited editions of just 50 each.).

You also get, the surrounding package, of multi-aspect sixth-floor penthouse, with lift access, and the aforementioned basement parking. It shares the top floor with just two other units, behind/to the south, at the very ‘pointy’ section, with views west past the County Hall, and to the east to the city, and, beyond, the hills running out past Montenotte.

Then, thanks to its west-facing balcony, it also has views back towards the Church of Ireland’s Bishop’s Palace, an imperiously lofty, stand-alone Georgian house on two or three acres of private grounds, facing up its long avenue to St Fin Barre’s Cathedral. Now, if you want Cork property bragging rights, that’s the answer to prayers?

Apt 19 comes with some distinctive touches too: the kitchen, for example, has a double height section along its window, going up about 15’, in a section protruding over the rest of the Sherkin’s roof line.

Since taking on the penthouse, the owner made quite significant alterations: he enlarged the kitchen by taking away a corner utility room, he put in new floor-to-ceiling units and banks of appliances (including wine fridge etc) in a dark, almost textured and mottled finish, done by Classic Kitchens based in Carrigaline, who handle the German Nobilia range.

Elsewhere, ceiling heights were changed, getting some extra vital few inches where possible and insulation in the roof was enhanced.

Down at ground level, all new flooring went down, mostly in semi-solid walnut, on re-levelled screeds, and the long internal corridor has a carpet section cut at an angle, a neat trick to soften the linear look.

Doors were all changed: new ones now go floor to ceiling, so when open the extra foot or two of clear space increases the visual sight lines within. But, these doors are a savage weight, a chore to get up the stairwells, needing a crew of lifters. Spare a thought too for the task of getting the baby grand piano up, and almost wedged into its pride of place in the apartment ‘bow.’ The fact the owner doesn’t himself tinkle the ivories is only another thin end of this wedge?

A penthouse for the super-prime market

Bathrooms have been redone: the master bedroom is en suite, and all bedrooms (none are overly large, by the way) have new Sliderobes, while there’s a storage press for sports gear and more off the hall, past the entrance vestibule.

Heating is via gas, overseen by Nest Home Controls, and the apartment also has an alarm and six security cameras. So no matter where the owner is, Barbados or just coming up from the basement, there’s all seeing eyes within, controllability and peace of mind.

Every room is set up for Sky TV, with the apartment’s largest screen set on a wall flanked by side columns in a black marble, continuing the sort of masculine decor as initiated in the kitchen. The marble weighs in, pricewise, at about €15,000, let it be noted. Coolest things of all, ironically, are quite possibly the hottest: the radiators covers – they’re stunning.

Expensively commissioned and custom-made by Canterbury, Kent-based cabinet maker Jason Muteham, they are in curved, vertical lathes of walnut, and are as exquisitely tactile as they are aesthetic.

More of an obvious statement piece then is the ‘Ice Chandelier,’ a classic contemporary Scandi design, with nine suspended mouth-blown glass globes, and it’s one only of many pretty stylish lighting pieces sourced, like much of the rest of the ‘look,’ by Ventura Design, an Irish company with an off-shoot base in Kinsale.

VERDICT: A sharp one-off, in a rarified price league, for self-isolating times.

  • Lancaster Quay, Cork City
  • €1 million
  • Size: 189 sq m (2,024 sq ft) inc balconies
  • Bedrooms: 3
  • Bathrooms: 2
  • BER: C2
  • Best Feature: High end.

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