One of the owners of buildings facing demolition on Cork’s historic spine has blamed the economic crash for the structures falling into dereliction. Dave O’Connor, who runs Suits Distributors, said they are working quickly to make them safe before they are torn down.
“It’s sad for us to see what’s happened here. It’s not easy,” he said.
Mr O’Connor confirmed that he, along with his brother Padraig, are liaising with their engineers and with the city council to resolve the issues around 62-65 North Main St “as soon as possible” after last week’s partial building collapse.
Dave, Padraig, and Brian O’Connor are named on the council’s derelict sites register as the owners of No 65, with Dave and Brian listed as the owners of 62, 63, and 64. Brian told the Irish Examiner that he is no longer involved with the properties. Dave said he and Padraig are dealing with the issues now.
“We have a plan in place to make them safe,” he said. “We are taking the advice of our engineers. They are old buildings and we are moving as fast as we can, but they will have to come down.
It’s too early to say what will happen after that. But we are working as fast as we can to make them safe.
While two steel beams have been bolted to the front of No 63 for several months, a portion to the rear partially collapsed into a storage yard around 6.30pm last Thursday. There were no injuries.
Following an engineering assessment on Friday, severe structural concerns were raised. The street around those two buildings has been cordoned off for public safety reasons since. Pedestrian movement is restricted to the eastern side of the street. All other businesses on the street are trading as usual.
The demolition work could take up to three weeks. Dave said he and his brothers, who own 61 North Main St, the corner building at the street’s junction with Liberty St in which clothes shop Diesel trades, bought the adjoining buildings, No 62-65, about a decade ago for investment purposes.
“But we, like a lot of other business, were hit by the recession. It wasn’t a recession really. It was a hurricane,” he said.
They did not have the money to invest in or develop the properties, he said, and the loans associated with the investment purchase were subsequently taken over by Nama and sold on.
The properties were added to the city’s derelict sites register in 2015 and have a combined value of €545,000. Owners of properties on the register face a 3% annual levy on the market value of the property.
It means the O’Connors faced an annual levy of €16,350. The derelict sites levy is due to increase to 7% of the market value from 2020.
Mr O’Connor said: “We bailed out the banks but there was no-one to bail out small businesses like us. It’s sad for us too to see the buildings like this. It’s not easy, but we are trying to deal with the situation as quickly as we can.”
The North Main Street Traders’ Association said they are now liaising with City Hall to resolve issues like bin collection and street cleaning arrangements while the traffic restrictions are in place.