An excavator knocked several structures yesterday which were once part of the former Beamish and Crawford brewery’s fermentation block.
The structures, located behind the former brewery’s landmark Counting House, have no historical significance.
While there was just one machine on the South Main St site, it is the first sign of physical work on the site.
The work comes almost nine months after Taoiseach Enda Kenny turned the sod in a pre-election ceremony — an event branded a pre-election stunt at the time — and almost two years after €20m of public funding was agreed to get the project off the ground.
Amid mounting concerns over the lack of progress on the site, the developers, BAM, and Housing Minister Simon Coveney, both said in late August that demolition would start within 10 days and that people would soon see physical signs of progress.
Independent councillor Mick Finn, who said there were fears that this deadline would also be missed, welcomed the start of demolition.
“It’s long overdue and I’m delighted that it’s started,” he said. “The people of Cork were concerned about the delays and the changing timelines, and we feared that this could be another false dawn.
“However, hopefully, the project can now take off like other projects in the city, and people will see a lot of progress in the months ahead.”
However, work on the detailed internal design of the 6,000-seat venue is ongoing. The outcome of this process will inform crucial talks in October aimed at nailing down final costings for the project, which is set to receive up to €20m in public funding — €12m from the government and €8m from Cork City Council.
BAM chief executive Theo Cullinane has accepted that the delay has been frustrating but he said the internal design process has been extremely complex.
“This will be the first time anything like this has been built in Ireland,” he said.
“This is not just going to be a big basketball hall that will host concerts. This will be unique, a bespoke and multi-functional facility that will be able to host a ballet one day, and a rock concert the next day.
“Given the size of the market in the region, the facility has to be designed to be flexible, to facilitate a rapid change-around. That is a complex process and will take time to get right.”
Mr Coveney says the project will be delivered and public funding is secure.
Council chief executive Ann Doherty has also said that the local authority, which oversaw the competitive tendering process for the public funding, will continue to provide whatever support it can to ensure the project is delivered.
Entertainment company Live Nation will operate the venue. However, its target opening date of 2018 is unlikely to be met.