Good times on the horizon

Property Editor Tommy Barker on why home owners living close to the newly expanded East Cork rail service are laughing all the way to the bank.

HOUSE prices didn’t rise much back in the lean, mean 1980s — it was our other great depression era, after all.

But, when Dublin’s DART rail services came along in 1984, residential property prices along that scenic coastal commuter line rose by 10% to 14% within a year or so.

Zap up along another decade or so, and specific areas of the capital got another boost when the LUAS service put outlying areas like Tallaght back on a desirability and development curve.

Proximity to a DART or LUAS station suddenly moved to the top of any property’s sales brochure list of attributes.

Of course, the newly expanded Cork-Carrigtwohill-Midleton rail service (the MART? the CART?) which went live this summer ’09 won’t rise to the heady numbers of 90,000 commuters a day that the DART carries, yet there is going to be a price spin-off for houses, businesses, service and employment centres literally down the line.

Even if hopes of 10% property lifts along the Cork-Midleton line seem rather optimistic in the current financially washed-up climate, the plain fact is that having the service in place underpins their values — at least relative to other less well-served location, they will have a desirability and demand edge over them into the future.

Many of the Dublin communities served by the DART were of course well-established, settled and fully-developed suburban spots, so while the train’s arrival came as a boon in many ways, it didn’t really generate a building rush.

Hopes of a Cork to Midleton rail service did create a building surge, however, much of it already now completed.

This reporter recalls writing property stories back in the latter half of the 1990s about just such an eventuality, when house-builders McInerneys bought a big plot of land by the disused rail line in Broomfield for 600 houses.

Positive moves towards the start-up of this long-heralded service came only slowly, in the 2001 strategic master plan for the greater Cork area, the well-conceived CASP Plan.

It predicated large-scale house building in Midleton and Carrigtwohill in particular, very much on the back of the anticipated arrival of a rail line, while also put on a track to development were Monard, Kilbarry and Blarney in the north-east corridor.

Estate agent Edward Hanafin of Lisney notes that while new housing east of the city has boomed, commercial activity has also successfully made a move east of Cork city in the past decade. Major current and future employment centres include parks like EastGate, the Euro Business Park and others clustered around Little Island, as well as the Fota Business and Retail Park.

And, despite its proximity to Carrigtwohill, there are plans to have the Fota Business Park and the neighbouring IDA Carrigtwohill industrial estate of 190 acres served by a new rail station. A planning application for this extra station was lodged in June of this year and the IDA’s regional manager Ray O’Connor says “such an investment would certainly benefit the many existing IDA client companies on the park and would assist in the international marketing of the IDA Carrigtwohill Business and Technology Park to potential investors.”

According to Lisney’s Mr Hanafin: “It is very significant that the railway line has been completed and it is now operational — as it is likely that there will be little infrastructural development of this type in the medium term due to the crisis in the public finances.”

He notes that the announcement of the reopening of the railway line a few years ago has had a positive effect on property values and house prices in the Carrigtwohill and Midleton area over the last few years.

“It will probably take a few years for the railway link to become well established, and as the property market improves, the commuter rail link to Cork city will protect property values in east Cork going forward,” he asserts. “Mallow and Cobh have already seen the benefits of having a commuter railway, and the presence of the rail link allowed these towns to expand in recent years.”

According to residential property specialist Suzanne Tyrrell of Cohalan Downing, who is actively involved in the sales of 950 houses currently being delivered by BAM Gable in Carrigtwohill’s CastleLake development, and which is bounded by the rail line, “residents are delighted with the start of the service and many are using it regularly.”

She says that other sales enquiries “have picked up slightly since the commencement of the commuter train. Although its opening was inevitable for many months now, people needed to see it for themselves before they considered making a move to it.”

One third of Castlelake’s 950 houses are already built and occupied and the promised feature lake on the 137-acre site has recently been delivered, just featuring on wildlife’s own GPS as a place to splash down at.

An Aldi supermarket is trading very successfully locally, and a primary school is due to open at CastleLake in the near future. And, there’s still a whole lot more to down the line: to turn an old joke on its head, yes, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and yes, it is a train. Thankfully.


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