City vision to swing into docklands

A ‘NEW Cork’ beckons down-river of the existing southern city — but locals can’t yet see it.

The claim was made at the launch last night of a seminal €1 billion investment plan proposed for just one fraction of Cork’s sprawling 420-acre Docklands campus.

Forging new links, the planned €1bn Atlantic Quarter will bookmark the far end of Cork city’s languishing docks and old yards, and will be distinguished by an iconic swing-bridge with Europe’s longest span, green buildings up to 96 metres/ 30 storeys tall, an events centre, and huge office park with plazas, houses and apartments.

“For once, the term ‘transformational’ can be used with absolute confidence to describe a project. In terms of its scale, design, ambition, economic and cultural impacts, Atlantic Quarter is a seminal, defining vision for Cork,” said developer Greg Coughlan, chief executive of Howard Holdings, as they showcased their own company’s plans for just 11 well-placed acres of that huge land-bank.

The potential is enormous, civic and government support was now swinging in behind it but local cynicism and complacency still had to be countered, Mr Coughlan urged.

“We passionately believe in the docklands project and we have refused to allow ourselves to get bogged down in considering ‘what can’t happen’.

“Our focus has always been on ‘what can happen’ and ‘how can we make it happen’, he said at a high-profile launch in the Clarion Hotel, part of the €100m City Quarter development — and a development that sceptics said five years ago wouldn’t work.

“We are not naïve. We are commercial people but we do have a view that our commercial success spells opportunities and progress for others. Our City Quarter project where we are now, is a case in point. If we were to take notice of the doomsayers, we would never have embarked on the project,” he asserted.

“We need to stop this cynicism. I have already heard some of the negative views of my fellow developers in the city. We need to work together, we need, as Cork people, to believe — believe we can deliver, believe we can be the leading edge of everything to do with development and an example to the rest of Europe.

“Sometimes, I think the only people who aren’t getting the story of the Cork Docklands are Cork people. We often seem to me to be so busy looking around us for someone to blame, that we forget to look forward,” said Mr Coughlan.

“This scheme is going to set a tone and standard for the rest of the docklands developers to follow, Cork City Council set the bar very high for development and for ourselves, but it is deliverable and we will deliver,” they told guests.

According to Eric Turcotte, of Canadian firm Urban Strategies, the 11 acres set for rejuvenation and redevelopment, with the Eastern Gateway bridge “is at the prow of the docks, it is where the new Cork city is going to begin”.

The plan, first sketched five years ago and worked on solidly by an international professional team for the past two years to prepare a planning application, was unveiled last night to more than 400 people in the Clarion Hotel, and can be delivered within five years, said Howard Holdings MD, Jason Clerkin.

Howards say the high-quality, leading edge plans “will propel the city and region forward in a quantum way. Atlantic Quarter is a world class, deliverable, project that will become a catalyst for the ‘New Cork’ — a city of the 21st millennium, a modern European city offering attraction for commercial investment, city living, tourism, and a quality of life to rival any city in Europe.”

Holding forth

What is it?

Atlantic Quarter is a €1 billion mixed-use project for Cork’s docklands.

Who’s behind it?

Howard Holdings, who have already delivered the €100 million City Quarter scheme in Cork. This will be 10 times bigger. And they have lots of other Cork development sites too.

Homeboys made good, then?

The company has development projects and plans totalling billions of euro, in Britain, Poland, Portugal, and Italy. It is, however, headquartered in Cork, Ireland. A company jet, a Hawker 800, gets them about.

Where is it to happen?

Atlantic Quarter is set for 11.4 acres owned by Howard at the eastern end of the docks, by the Atlantic Pond and Pairc Uí Chaoimh.

Give us a date?

Planning is lodged from today and if no significant objections are received building could start at the end of 2008, early 2009. All going well, it could be wrapped up in five years.

What’s in it for me?

The Arena is a 5,500-person event and conference centre, and they won the contract for it from Cork City Council.

Howard want to build 575 residential units, which they say will be family-friendly and green, across a wide price-range.

Three towers will step up to 10, 20 and 30 storeys, with other lower blocks behind, capable of housing 1,600 people.

They plan 550,000sq ft of offices, pitched at the likes of Mircrosoft, and say they have user-inquiries for 100,000sq ft already.

The proposed access bridge will have a 51-metre span, and will open once or twice a day to allow tall ships through. It is high enough to allow smaller craft, including planned river ferries, underneath it.

Going it alone?

No, the team truly has global experience, and promises world-class design. It includes Foster and Partners for the towers; Wilkinson Eyre and Arup for the bridge; HKR architects; Scott Tallon Walker architects; Patel Taylor Architects; Toronto based Urban Strategies are master-planning it; Mitchell and Associates landscaping; and others. Among the bankers are Anglo Irish Bank.

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