2020 vision: briefing looks to future of Cork city

Tommy Barker

A commuter rail link called the CART could link Ballincollig to Dunkathel and Dublin will be a 90-minute, non-stop train journey away.

That glimpse of the city's potential was given at a Cities of the Future property briefing yesterday, by estate agent Roger Flack of Hamilton Osborne King.

New offices and large, family-friendly 1,500 and 2,000sq ft apartments will move eastwards towards Cork's docklands, with shared gardens, canals and marinas making a feature of the riverside location.

It could be high-rise living, but not necessarily high density, and amenities like the Showgrounds and Pairc Uí Caoimh could be the nucleus of a sports campus if the two bodies controlling them ever talk to one another, he said.

New offices will be slender, bright and efficient buildings, but will no longer be air conditioned, and will have opening windows ... a case of forward to the past. However, energy requirements may come from solar power, or even nuclear power in Britain.

Older offices on the traditional heartland of the South Mall will switch to Gucci-type boutiques at ground level, overhead apartments and hotels, suggested Mr Flack, a director of Hamilton Osborne King and incoming Cork Chamber of Commerce president. The city centre will have niche shopping and service driven retailing, while the larger 'big box' shopping will consolidate on the city's outskirts and in towns like Midleton, Carrigaline and Ballincollig.

With an ageing population, older people will increasingly live in gated sheltered housing, but with gym facilities for active old age, with convenience shops selling readymade food,

libraries and medical facilities, while private hospitals will emerge in several locations. With current national immigration running at 35,000 per annum the size of a large town Cork is forecast to have an 80% population growth by 2020, rising to up to 450,000, said Mr Flack.

Yet, that figure comes despite a clear population decline relative to Dublin's spectacular growth since the 1980s, said Mr Flack, who warned that the Dublin-Belfast corridor, with a prospective population of four million, presented other cities with challenges.

In 1986 Cork' population was 18% of Dublin's. By 1996 that fell to 14% and in 2002 it had slumped to just 11% yet the forecast is that in 15 years it would be back to 20%.

"Do we really believe this figure?" asked Mr Flack, who warned that, to be competitive, Cork must address a number of areas

of pressing concern. The city needs a vision of itself, with a second centre of excellence similar to the NMRC, such as in the bio/pharmaceutical sector, he said. It needs to move up the R&D 'value chain', and must establish a real tourism and cultural market with something like a national gallery for modern art, displaying the artworks in storage in Dublin's galleries.

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