Key landowner backs docklands centre project

A key landowner in Cork’s sprawling south docklands has backed O’Callaghan Properties’ €50m Albert Quay events centre project.

Building an events centre on this quayside site could help kickstart the multibillion-euro regeneration of the city’s docklands, Origin Enterprises plc boss Tom O’Mahony said.

The agri-services group, which has activities in Ireland, Britain, Poland, and Ukraine, is a significant land owner in the sprawling south docklands area.

It owns some 32 acres in the area, including two acres on Victoria Quay, near the location proposed by O’Callaghan Properties for its 6,000-capacity conference and events centre.

Origin said it believes that such a large-scale project on this site would “introduce a much-needed new dynamic into discussions” on the future development of the docklands area.

In a statement yesterday, the company said an events centre on Albert Quay, “allied to the improving economic conditions”, would once again encourage development proposals for the docklands area.

“Albert Quay as a location for the conference and event centre would represent a significant endorsement of the potential of Cork docklands to become a destination point for international and local investment as well as a centre for business and tourism,” Mr O’Mahony said.

His comments came as yesterday’s deadline passed for the submission of expressions of interest from parties who want to be included in a list of parties who will move forward to a competitive dialogue phase that will determine who gets to build the city’s first multifunctional conference and events centre.

A €16m incentive fund has been made available to get the project off the ground.

Three events centre projects have planning permission:

nO’Callaghan Properties’ project on Albert Quay;

nThe €50m, 6,000-capacity venue which is the focal point of the €150m Brewery Quarter joint venture regeneration of the former Beamish & Crawford site on South Main St proposed by Heineken Ireland and BAM Contractors;

nAnd an events centre on the old Ford distribution site near Páirc Uí Chaoimh, proposed by Howard Holdings.

Supporters of the Brewery Quarter project have mounted a high-profile PR campaign in recent months, and have lobbied publicly on the merits of its site,arguing it would boost regeneration in the city centre.

O’Callaghan Properties has declined to make public statements on its project since city manager Tim Lucey invited expressions of interest. But it has been working under the radar to garner support.

The company declined to comment on Origin’s statement yesterday.

Mr Lucey has said a range of selection criteria will now be applied to the interested parties.

A team comprising PricewaterhouseCoopers; IMD Group UK, international market experts on events venues; and quantity surveyors KMS Consulting have been appointed to assess the bids.

Those deemed to have “suitable solutions” will then be invited to tender.

Mr Lucey said he hopes to bring a recommendation to council in May or June setting out who the preferred developer is.

Councillors have been told that a rigid public spending code copper-fastens the process and that they won’t be involved in the selection procedure.

They may, however, be involved in a crucial stage once a preferred developer has been selected, if council funds are to be allocated to the project.


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