The development of a stand-alone multi-purpose events and conference centre on Cork’s Albert Quay could be the catalyst for the regeneration of the city’s sprawling docklands region, the team behind the O’Callaghan Properties proposal believes.
And they are confident that the riverside location between The Sextant and Idle Hour pubs, close to the city’s train station, main bus station, and South Ring Rd, and its accessibility for patrons — not to mention the large trucks which will deliver stage sets and rigging — combined with its proximity to bars, hotels, and restaurants, will help the project come out on top in the competition for public funds.
“The Albert Quay project could be the spark the lights the fuse of docklands development,” said OCP project manager Joe Keane.
Citing the docklands location of international events centres such as the O2 in London, in Copenhagen, Glasgow, and Reykjavik, Mr Keaney said: “The trend for these types of buildings is that they tend to be built on the fringe of the core of cities, rather than in the heart.
“They can’t be allowed to disrupt the other activities of a city centre.”
Owen O’Callaghan, who first proposed to build an exhibition centre in Mahon over a decade ago and who had to pay the city almost €8m when it did not materialise, also strongly believes that this docklands site has the edge over his rivals.
He pointed out that LA-based Live Nation — one of the world’s top artist management agencies, with U2 and Madonna on their books, and the owners of Ticketmaster — have been heavily involved in the detailed design of the facility.
He and key team members have been liaising closely with Live Nation throughout the design process, and visited the O2 in London to see what they needed to include in the Cork facility to ensure it met the demands of world leaders in the entertainment industry.
Mr O’Callaghan, who uses Casey Communications for PR, said it has resulted in the design of a multi-purpose events centre which will be able to cater for everyone — rock concerts, West End stage shows, sports events, conferences, and conventions.
“If we don’t get it right, it could become a white elephant,” he said.
OCP’s first planning application for an events centre was withdrawn when it became clear, following feedback from Live Nation, that the design wasn’t flexible enough.
They went back to the drawing board — during which time their main rivals secured planning permission first — before coming up with the current proposal.
“We could have been first up with planning, but not necessarily best dressed,” Mr Keane said.
The two men believe the building which now has planning will be able to adapt to market demands over the next 30 to 50 years.
The 100,000 sq ft building will have a 6,000 capacity, with 4,500 seats, of which 2,500 are retractable.
This will give the centre almost half an acre of flat reinforced floor space, providing additional standing room for rock concerts, or space for indoor sports events such as tennis, basketball, exhibitions, or even an ice rink.
The project is ‘shovel-ready’, with private funding in place, Mr O’Callaghan said, but public funding is crucial if this critical piece of infrastructure is finally to be delivered not just for Cork, but for the entire Munster region.
Mass parking has not been provided because the team believes patrons will use the city’s existing public car parks, the park and ride service, buses, or trains to get to the centre.
OCP say if it comes through the competition process for the public funds, it can be on site in the spring, with construction taking about 18 months.
It has set an ambitious Christmas 2015 opening date.
O’Callaghan Properties has a strong track record for delivering projects, particularly in Cork.
The company is responsible for the development of Merchant’s Quay Shopping Centre, Paul St Shopping Centre, North Main St shopping centre, the Opera Lane retail precinct in the city centre, and the Mahon Point shopping centre in the suburbs. It was also involved in the Liffey Valley project in Dublin.
O’Callaghan Properties’ proposal for Albert Quay:
- €50m project;
- 6,000 capacity, 4,500 seats, of which 2,500 are retractable;
- Circa 100,000 sq ft;
- 300 construction jobs;
- 70 full-time jobs once open, with the centre supporting a further 200 ancillary jobs;
- 80 different international shows, yielding 150 event nights per year;
- 10 conferences and exhibitions;
- More than 70,000 extra bed nights for local hotels and B&Bs.
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