Developer warns against ‘public spat’ over rival event centres

The developer behind one of two multi-million event centres proposed for Cork City has warned against a “public spat” after several prominent business owners united to support his rival.

Owen O’Callaghan, who has planning permission for a 6,000-capacity conference and events centre on Albert Quay, said the move by the Support Brewery Quarter lobby group will do nothing to help the selection process. He said he has also briefed business interests on his project and has been very heartened by the response.

“People are very positive about the location, the visual impact it will have on the city, the quality and flexibility of the design and the fact that logistically, it can work much better than the alternative,” he said.

“I’m not sure that having a public spat or head count between businesses whose premises are a few minutes walk from one another in any case helps the analysis.”

The Irish Examiner revealed last weekend how a group of key publicans, retailers, and business owners are pushing for the development of the €150m Brewery Quarter on the former Beamish and Crawford site on North Main St.

A €50m 6,000-seat events centre is central to Heineken/ BAM’s phased venture on this site which includes the development of the brewery’s former Counting House as well as a viewing tower, apartments, cinema, and offices.

Both proposals are competing for €16m in public funding to help secure the delivery of a conference centre in Cork.

Planning permission is still valid for an events centre on the old Ford distribution site near Páirc Uí Chaoimh, proposed by Howard Holdings, but O’Callaghan Properties and Heineken/BAM are seen as the front-runners. Consultants acting on behalf of Cork City Council will assess all the proposals before recommending which one should get the public funding.

The Support the Brewery Quarter campaign, launched by Derry O’Regan, co-owner of SoHo and Douglas’s East Village, and including Electric and Voodoo owner Ernest Cantillon; Rearden’s owner Paul Montgomery; Cornstore boss Mike Ryan; and Mick Scully of the North Main Street Traders’ Association, says the Brewery Quarter project could kick-start the regeneration of the city centre.

But Mr O’Callaghan said he is “very satisfied with the merits” of his proposal. “If we come through the process being set up by the city council which we hope will be over before Christmas, then we will begin construction on Albert Quay in the early Spring and will have the event/conference centre open by Christmas 2015,” he said.

Meanwhile, Heineken/BAM Contractors have unveiled 11-metre high images of their regeneration proposal on the brewery’s Counting House.

BAM also announced the completion and handover last night to Leeds City Council of the £60m (€71.6m) 13,500-capacity Leeds Arena.

“Handing it over has only served to fuel our ambition and excitement for Cork’s Brewery Quarter,” BAM Contractor’s CEO, Theo Cullinane, said.

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