Ann Doherty insisted that there is “nothing serious” stalling the project, but she said it is still not possible to predict a start date for the multimillion-euro project which is set to receive €20m in public funding.
She was speaking last night after delivering an update to councillors on the status of the talks.
It is nine months since a deal was concluded to provide €20m of taxpayer money as a kickstart package to BAM and Heineken, who won the competitive tender for the project. They plan to build the centre and hand it over to event centre operators, Live Nation.
But concerns are mounting over the lack of progress.
Ms Doherty said the talks are centred on the consortium getting the “necessary third-party funding” for the project, the security of that funding and the public funding and other matters which require agreement before the contract can be executed.
“All parties have shown a commitment to making the Cork event centre a reality,” she said. “The matters under consideration are complex and have required more time than was originally anticipated.
“The city council will continue its endeavours to ensure that all the matters under its control are resolved as quickly as possible and will facilitate the current process and do all within its power to deliver an event centre for the city.
“Once a formal contract is executed then works will begin immediately on the Beamish and Crawford site but it is not possible until then to predict a likely start date.”
Councillors united to express concern about the delays.
AAA Cllr Mick Barry said it’s not good enough that there has been no concrete progress since last December’s public funding deal.
Fianna Fáil Cllr Tom O’Driscoll said the council was told that once the funding deal was agreed, nothing would hold the project up.
Fine Gael Cllr John Buttimer said councillors have given the process time and space over the last 18-months.
“But our patience is running out. I would be asking the project team to brief us. There has to be some accountability,” he said.
The debate comes a week after Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney warned that the €20m taxpayer-funded kickstart package will not be on the table forever.
The Irish Examiner reported last week how Mr Coveney, who has taken a personal interest in getting the project over the line, insisted the centre would be delivered and urged people to be patient to allow the negotiations conclude.
He described the talks as robust, and said that was always expected given the amount of money involved.
“But this will happen for Cork, don’t be under any doubt about that,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to make sure the Government is making a serious contribution to ensure that this happens.”
The events centre is a key element of BAM and site owners Heineken Ireland’s ambitious €150m Brewery Quarter regeneration of the former Beamish and Crawford site on South Main St.