John Cleary Developments (JCD), which built the two City Gate office campuses in Mahon — home to one of the largest concentrations of US multinationals in Ireland and where some 2,500 people work — is in pre-planning talks with City Hall to build around 220 apartments on part of a nearby site earmarked for a 280,000sq ft office complex.
City councillors will decide the fate of the project at a crucial rezoning meeting on Monday night.
JCD has full planning permission for its City Gate Plaza project on the former MaCom site in Mahon and is poised to break ground within weeks. But it has now proposed to replace two of the already permitted office blocks and some surface car parking to the rear of the site with four apartment buildings, and build a mixed-use development.
It says it could build up to 220 high-quality apartments on site, making it one of the most significant residential accommodation projects in the city in recent years.
The site’s zoning would have to be amended from business and technology use to business, technology, and residential, before planning permission can be sought for the apartments.
“Construction of the offices will start in November and will create 200 construction jobs over the next two years,” said a JCD spokesman.
“However, based on strong recommendations from our client companies and a willingness on our part to do something significant to relieve the housing shortage in Cork City, we are proposing to alter our permitted planning to allow for a combined scheme of grade-A offices and up to 220 high-quality apartments.
“Should the council approve the variation, our intention would be to apply for planning permission for the residential element immediately. If this is granted, we would build the apartments in conjunction with completing the offices, with them being available to occupy by the third quarter of 2018.”
Councillors are due to vote on Monday on a series of variations to business and technology zoned lands across central Mahon.
The sites combined have the capacity to deliver up to 700 apartments.
Dan Kiely, CEO of Mahon-based global outsourcing giant Voxpro, who warned about the city’s housing shortage threatening jobs growth, backed JCD’s City Gate Plaza apartments plan.
“As CEO and co-founder of a growing business already employing over 1,000 staff in the local area and with plans to expand those numbers, I am concerned about the ongoing tightening supply of available housing in Cork City,” he said.
“The lack of adequate and affordable housing poses a major challenge to businesses in Cork trying to expand their workforce.
“The issue of housing is one of the biggest challenges which Ireland faces at the moment; it isn’t just a Cork problem. The lack of adequate supply coming on stream poses a real risk to businesses in Cork City and it is for this reason I believe there is a strong need and case for this mixed development in Mahon.
“This development makes sense from a social point of view, given the current housing crisis; from a business point of view, enabling new businesses and current business to grow and expand; from a transport point of view, allowing people to work and live in the same area, and from an environmental point of view by encouraging more sustainable transport options.
“It is an issue that has to be dealt with, and it can be overcome with developments such as this.”
Mahon-based Qualcomm director Paul Ryan also backed the project. “It will provide accommodation choices for our existing workforce but will also help us attract new hires from outside Cork. An added attraction is the ability to live and work in the same area,” he said.
JCD built City Gate and City Gate Park right through the recession. Both are fully occupied, with companies which employ more than 2,500 people. The City Gate Plaza project has potential to create up to 1,000 jobs.
However, Mahon experiences chronic traffic congestion. Local SF councillor Chris O’Leary, who attended a meeting of ward councillors on the issues last night, said he felt they were being pressurised into a decision.
“My heart is torn. Yes, we need houses, but it’s a question of where they are built,” he said.
“I am against a blanket variation. Doing so would result in more houses and more office spaces being put into an area when there is no solution being put forward to address the underlying traffic issues in the area.
“There is existing capacity on other sites, which should be built first. And there is capacity on Jacob’s Island too.”
But JCD said it recently commissioned construction of an additional lane in front of the original City Gate and the installation of traffic lights on the junction of St Michael’s Drive and the Mahon Link Rd.
City Hall said it is working on several traffic management plans for the area, including the realignment of Skehard Rd.