That is according to Tánaiste Simon Coveney, who was speaking to business leaders in Cork about the €116bn national development plan’s impact on the city and county in the next two decades.
At Cork Chamber’s sold-out ‘Future of Cork’ event at the Clayton Hotel, Mr Coveney said Cork’s population will grow 60% by 2040, with 2m people living in the South.
In order to make it more livable, a viable alternative to Dublin, and to “dramatically change the face of the city”, Cork needed the major investment promised under the national plan, he said.
“At the end of the next 20 years, with the redrawn boundary, we’ll have somewhere between 320,000-360,000 people,” said Mr Coveney. “That is the kind of change Cork City has not seen since independence.”
The Docklands will be a huge part of the solution, and €90m being spent on the redevelopment of the Port of Cork in Ringaskiddy is key to that.
“It clears the way for significant Docklands development over the next 10 years,” said Mr Coveney. “It creates space, growth and oxygen for the city to grow outwards and upwards.”
There will be major building upwards in the coming years, with green spaces and amenities within the city centre protected when the boundary is extended, said Mr Coveney.
The tallest building in Ireland may not hold that record for long under the new plan, he added.
“We need to drive the vast majority of our new development, still within the current city boundaries, even though we will of course still see population growth happen outside of that in the broader city area also,” said Mr Coveney.
“Just because we draw a boundary that actually brings in a whole load of new green areas into the city, that have an opportunity for development, doesn’t mean we fill it with houses.
“That would fundamentally undermine the sustainability of the city we all love. Instead what we are going to see is a lot of new buildings along the quaysides, and much higher buildings. Buildings that can follow the lead of the Elysian.
“In my view, the Elysian will be pretty commonplace along our quaysides in terms of setting a benchmark for height. In fact, we may well go above it in terms of many of the new plans in train.”
Cork’s road network will have to be upgraded to prove “all roads don’t lead to Dublin”, said Mr Coveney.
Cork’s northside will finally be an area of major focus, he added.
“We are trying to create other networks between Cork, Limerick, Galway, and Sligo that can try to rebalance the road network away from a hub and spoke mechanism where Dublin is the centre of everything. This is about trying to create growth centres outside of Dublin. A very important element for many people on the northside of the city, and for businesses, we are going to do half of the Northern Ring Road. The Eastern half. That will link the motorway from Limerick to the motorway from Dublin, and is the important side to get done first.
“The Northern Ring Road is a €400m project. If you have a motorway coming in from Limerick to Cork, you can’t simply just bring it into Blackpool with the current structures there at the moment. There will have to be a significant junction there, and a dual carriageway going east to link to Dunkettle, which is in many ways our Red Cow junction.”
The saga of the long-mooted events centre, which has been beset by delays since being greenlit, will be resolved, he said.
“We are close to making that happen. I’ve been saying that for some time, but BAM, Live Nation, and ourselves are all going through a final approval to all put more money into the process. This is going to cost between €75m and €80m to build. The developers and future owner will put more money in and we have an agreement in principle. Hopefully, we will have an announcement on that very shortly.”
Cork cannot delay any further to reach its potential, said Mr Coveney.
“We want to see it as a region driven from the city centre out as opposed to the other way around,” he said.
“I think about what Cork city looked like 20 years ago when I got into politics. Yes, there are some exceptional buildings around like the maternity hospital. But essentially it doesn’t look that different to what it did then.
“In 20 years’ time, our city will look dramatically different and, in my view, 25% of the city’s footprint has yet to be built. Hopefully, we can spend billions of euro to transform this city for the better.”
Projects greenlit under spending plan
Planned for Cork under the €116bn Project Ireland 2040
- Connects Cork — a €200m investment to be completed by 2027.
- Cork-Dublin higher speed rail study. Planning and design of a light rail corridor for Cork.
- The Port of Cork redevelopment project, costing €90m.
- A new general hospital for Cork. A new elective-only hospital.
- Replacement and additional radiation oncology facilities will be provided at Cork University Hospital.
- A new ambulance base.
- New national eHealth system.
- The Cork Events Centre
- Crawford Gallery renovation.
- The Lower Harbour Main Drainage Project, a €55m investment to significantly enhance the water quality in Cork Harbour.
- Flood Relief Schemes: Cork city and county (the lower Lee, Skibbereen, Bandon, Clonakilty).
- University College Cork: New business school, student accommodation, science park, ICT services and new dental hospital.
- Tyndall National Institute: Upgrading of the Tyndall National Institute to double in size.
- Cork Institute of Technology: Major PPP infrastructure projects.
- M20 Cork-Limerick. Motorway with Northern Ring Road.
- M22 Ballyvourney to Macroom.
- M28 Cork to Ringaskiddy road Dunkettle Interchange.