Planning upheld for 15-storey glass-fronted office tower in Cork

The Prism building on Clontarf Street. Picture: Pedersen Focus

A striking 15-storey glass-fronted office tower in Cork city centre will enhance the city’s skyline and not impact significantly on important views, An Bórd Pleanála said as it upheld planning for the €20m project.

The developers of the triangular Prism Building welcomed the decision and said work could start within months on the compact underused site next to the city’s central bus station, and bounded by Clontarf St, Deane St and Lower Oliver Plunkett St.

They also said that extensive pre-planning works for their even larger €250m 34-storey tower project on the nearby Custom House site are at a very advanced stage.

The news came following confirmation that the planning appeals board upheld the decision by Cork City Council last October for the Prism.

The building, inspired by the iconic 1902-built Flatiron building on New York’s Fifth Avenue, was granted planning despite senior planners recommending it be refused due to its height.

The city’s now retired head of planning, Pat Ledwidge, disagreed and 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 site.

An Taisce appealed and said it could set an unfavourable precedent for the construction of tall buildings in the city centre island and would impact on important views.

An artist's impression of the planned Prism Building. Picture: Pedersen Focus
An artist's impression of the planned Prism Building. Picture: Pedersen Focus

But the board said it had regard to national and local planning policies, national building height guidelines, the existing character and pattern of development in the area, and the design, layout, form, mass and height of the proposal.

It said the proposed building would “enhance the skyline” and would “not have a significant and detrimental impact on any important views and vistas”.

It also said the project would secure the redevelopment of underused urban land in a prime city location close to a major transport node, that it would be consistent with policy guidance to secure more compact and higher density development in city centre areas, and would integrate with the “established character of the sensitive historic city centre”.

Reddy Architects + Urbanism has designed the Prism to provide 60,000 sq ft of office space over floors one to 14, with a roof-top terrace on the 15th floor. It will have 300 workstations, with room for 600 workers. More than 100 people will be employed during construction.

Conor Lee, Tower Holdings’ director of operations in Ireland, said it will be transformative for the city centre.

“It will serve to regenerate this area of the city centre. There is a strong demand for offices and commercial buildings within Cork city centre,” he said. “In particular, the size and scale of this commercial development is very much in demand in Cork."

Cork Chamber's director of public affairs, Thomas McHugh, said the building symbolises the city’s ambition for itself.

“It is essential that our planning process continues to facilitate and encourage architectural statements that are bold and visionary, sparking civic pride and conversation about the future direction of our city region,” he said.

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