Food hall proposal for Cork's Capitol site abandoned

The developers behind the €50m regeneration of the landmark Capitol cinema site in Cork City have abandoned plans for a food hall in favour of more retail and office space.

John Cleary Developments (JCD) said following extensive research, and a national and international marketing campaign for the proposed food hall, it emerged that without state-sponsored support, it would not be commercially viable. JCD said planning restrictions around hot food and take-out offerings were also prohibitive.

The firm said concerns were raised by market trader representatives about the potential impact the food hall may have on the historic market.

The food hall concept, which had been endorsed by Housing Minister Simon Coveney, had been flagged as one of the more exciting elements of the regeneration, with hopes it would link with the site’s neighbouring English Market to showcase the city’s food heritage and local produce.

However, confirmation that it has been abandoned follows the lodging by JCD of two new planning applications seeking changes of use for certain floors of the under-construction scheme.

John Cleary Development said the proposed changes to the planning application arose from occupier demand, and that there had been considerable interest from medium-size retailers seeking to locate in the city centre. Picture: Jim Coughlan
John Cleary Development said the proposed changes to the planning application arose from occupier demand, and that there had been considerable interest from medium-size retailers seeking to locate in the city centre. Picture: Jim Coughlan

One application seeks a change of use of the permitted food hall to provide more retail space at ground floor and first floor level. The second application seeks a change of use of the second floor for office use only.

A spokesman for JCD said since construction began on site earlier this year, there has been very considerable interest from medium-sized retailers seeking to locate in the city centre, and that the proposed changes arose out of occupier demand.

“We are in detailed discussions with a number of potential occupiers who are extremely impressed with the location, quality of office space, and access to amenities for staff,” the company said.

“The changes of use sought for the second floor, to provide for office space, is as a result of occupier-led demand — in that currently there is no new grade A office space available in the city centre. This proposed change will allow for up to 500 people to work in the office space in The Capitol which will have an extremely positive impact on city centre business.

The Capitol development under construction yesterday on St Patrick’s Street, Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan
The Capitol development under construction yesterday on St Patrick’s Street, Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan

“It is accepted in the property market that ground and first floor (retailing over two floors) is the most desirable format for retailers and that there currently is a shortage of new large floor plate retail space in Cork. This proposed application will provide exactly this type of space and shows Cork to be reactive to market needs.”

The company insists that the completed scheme, which will include the renovation and re-opening of the historic Oyster Tavern early next year, will have a transformative effect on the city, delivering hundreds of new jobs and increasing footfall.

Following its closure in 2005, the Capitol cinema building lay vacant for almost a decade. Construction work on the office and retail project started earlier this year. It is the most significant investment in the city centre in almost a decade.

Due for completion in February, it has had a positive impact with the recent letting of the former Mothercare shop (74-75 St Patrick’s Street), which lay vacant for seven years, to Danish home accessories chain Søstrene Grene, and new applications for other vacant units on Grand Parade.


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