LARGE-scale plans for a second urban regeneration site on Cork city’s North Main Street, focused around the North Main Street Shopping Centre, may follow on an initial €25 million investment at a derelict site, vacant and cleared after a fire back in 2008.
London-based BMOR, a development company with Irish directors who have Cork family roots, are now set to apply to Cork City Council for permission for 280 student beds, two retail units, reinstatement of the medieval Coleman’s Lane which links back to Grattan Street, and the creation of a small ‘pocket park’ which will be open to the public.
BMOR’s plans have been in the offing for the past year, after they acquired the site in 2018. There have been extensive pre-planning discussions and co-operation with Cork City Council, who sources say have facilitated clearing title and other historic issues for the site.
Design for the mixed-use site, which has the potential to be a game changer for the street, breathing new residential life into it and boosting trade and footfall for existing traders such as family businesses like Bradleys, is by architects O’Mahony Pike.
The site previously traded as Munster Furniture, and had been acquired in the early 2000s by David and Brian O’Connor, who had a clothing shop Diesel further up North Main Street, who offered it then at an annual rent of €1m.
The premises, which traded over two floors, was destroyed by fire in 2008. It was reported at the time that the brothers had paid close to €9m for the deep, 25,000 sq ft property, which comprised a number of historic four-storey 1830s buildings with Georgian facades.
The O’Connors’ former Diesel premises, at nos 62-64 North Main Street is currently boarded up and braced onto the street after a partial building collapse.
Meanwhile, it’s also understood that BMOR are advanced in plans for a very significant redevelopment of the largely mothballed North Main Street Shopping Centre, vacated by anchor tenant Dunnes Stores four years ago. The 60,000 sq ft shopping centre was developed by Owen Callaghan after archaeological excavations along what was Cork’s main medievel city spine thoroughfare some 800 years ago.
The shopping centre, which has a quite restricted frontage to the North Main Street, flanked by two compact retail units, opened in 1992, and was joined to a multi-storey car park which is owned and operated by Cork City Council.
BMOR’s plans for the North Main Street Shopping Centre site, which stretch back toward the Bridewell, Cornmarket Street and quays, are as yet unconfirmed. But, they are understood to include the possibility of a hotel and reconfigured retail units, and may include a bid to acquire control of the multi-storey car park also, for hotel parking and other users.
It currently has 324 spaces charged by the hour over four levels, with private and season parking on floor five.
A Cork spokesperson for BMOR commented regarding inquiries on the Shoping Centre plans that “BMOR have also acquired another larger property close to this site, the details of which will be announced in due course.
With a number of key stakeholders from Cork, including director Paul Irwin who heads up their site acquisition activities in the UK’s Midlands, in Belfast and now in Cork, BMOR has now opened an office on Cork city’s South Mall, and also has plans for a 43 house development on the city fringes at Killeens.
The current €25m plan includes two new shop units, 280 student beds, and support facilities such as a gym, laundry, a study, library, communal working areas, and a landscaped external courtyard, with restoration of Coleman’s Lane, one of several medieval lanes between North Main Street and Grattan Street.
Hard hit since the economic crash in the late 2000s, North Main Street has been the subject of several urban renewal studies, including one from UCC in 2016, and BMOR say their plans “will undoubtedly serve as a key contributor to the much-needed regeneration of North Main Street.”
Company director Paul Irwin says “as a Cork native, it gives me great pleasure and pride to present our ambitious plans for Cork city. The scheme, designed by O’Mahony Pike Architects, balances the rich heritage of North Main Street with sleek, innovative, and contemporary design.
"We believe this project will help to kick start the exciting redevelopment plans envisaged for this part of the city.” And, with the current economic pall from the Coronavirus pandemic, Mr Irwin added that “despite all that has transpired with the Covid-19 pandemic, we at BMOR have continued to forge ahead with this and other projects in the Cork area.
“We are confident that this project will not only breathe new life into one of the city’s most historic areas, but that the increased footfall generated as a result of the development will also benefit the existing neighbouring businesses and encourage an influx of new business to North Main Street and its surrounding areas.
"We also envisage that this project will reignite the appetite of up and coming working professionals to consider city centre living in Cork.” Mr Irwin added.
If cleared planning, the project on the long derelict site could involve 150 construction jobs, and 30 full-time jobs, say BMO, whose website www.bmor.co.uk claims current and ten-year pipeline projects at capital values of over €1bn.
“With the assistance of Cork City Council, who have been very supportive of this regeneration initiative since it was initially presented to them, we fully intend to proceed promptly with this venture upon receipt of planning permission.” Mr Irwin stated.