The fifth annual retail occupancy survey, focused on the city’s shopping core, shows the problem is focused on Grand Parade where two huge stalled developments — one on the Capitol Cinema site and the other on the city library site — are to blame.
Co-ordinated by Fine Gael activist Barry Keane and conducted on Tuesday on the South Mall, Parnell Place, Oliver Plunkett St, Grand Parade, Maylor St, St Patrick’s Street, Merchant’s Quay, Washington St and Opera Lane, the survey found some units had been vacant for five years and should be declared derelict.
“There is plenty of legislation available for Cork City Council to take over these sites and to sell them on to the highest bidder who will work the premises. This should be done immediately,” said Mr Keane.
He said urgent action is needed to address the two key sites on the Grand Parade in particular.
“These need to be developed urgently, and a plan for the area including replacing the old tax office on Sullivan’s Quay with a new city park is at the initial stages of development by Fine Gael in Cork.”
However, action is also needed to address vacancy and dereliction issues in an area comprising almost an entire block bounded by South Mall, Parnell Place, and Oliver Plunkett St also needs action, he said.
However, the survey also identified positive trends.
It shows the number of vacant units on the South Mall has dropped from 25 in 2010 to 10; on Oliver Plunkett St from 17 in 2010 to six; on Washington St from 17 in 2012 to eight; and on the Grand Parade from 16 in 2010 to just four.
All of the stores that have opened since 2011 have remained open, suggesting rents for these sites are economic, and that business in the city centre has become sustainable, the survey found.
Opera Lane retains a 100% occupancy rate for the second year in a row.
And St Patrick’s Street remains practically full with a few unoccupied buildings at its northern and southern ends.
Mr Keane also high-lighted the reopening of the former Kino cinema tomorrow. The arthouse cinema, which shut in Nov 2009 due to rising debts, will get a new lease of life as an alcohol-free venue for gigs and performances open to all age groups. “This will be a major shot in the arm for the western end of Washington St, which has bounced back in the last two years.”
Official city council figures show that the average vacancy rate stands at close to 20%.
The city and county council’s draft Metropolitan Cork Joint Retail Strat-egy aims to halve the number of vacant premises.
The city council is also working with contractors on a €40,000 strategy document to revive and regenerate the city centre.