The landmark Butter Exchange building on Cork’s northside, which has lain vacant for well over a decade, is in line for a new lease of life as a job creation hub.
It follows a decision by city councillors to agree to the disposal by way of lease of the iconic building in the shadow of Shandon steeple to a group which has plans to redevelop it as an enterprise centre.
But the group, Recreate Shandon Ltd CLG, spearheaded by Sean O’Sullivan, the founder of the Seabrook Technology Group, needs to secure funding and planning permission before its vision for the building can be realised.
The city council’s head of strategic and economic development Fearghal Reidy told councillors that City Hall will work with and support the group on a funding application to Enterprise Ireland.
A planning application for the project is expected to be lodged with the city council before the end of the year.
Councillors were told that talks have been underway for some time on the proposed enterprise centre project, but that more work is needed to deliver the vision.
The council's head of corporate affairs Paul Moynihan told the meeting that the plan for the building has been discussed with members of the Shandon Area Renewal Association, who are in favour of the proposal.
Councillors then agreed to dispose of the lease on the building to Recreate Shandon Limited CLG, c/o Whelan Solicitors, Grattan Court, Washington St West, Cork, by way of lease, for a term of 25 years, subject to a nominal rent of €1 per annum.
The striking building off Shandon St was developed by a group of merchants in 1769 on the site of a thriving outdoor butter market that had been operating in the area since the 1730s.
It went on to become an important commercial centre for the city during the 18th and 19th centuries, exporting butter to four continents.
It was regarded as the most important provider of butter in Britain and Ireland and it also supplied the British naval garrisons stationed in Cork.
At its trading peak in the 1880s, it was handling 500,000 casks per year valued at £1.5m.
But the butter trade began to decline by the end of the 19th century due to competition from European butter producers and the Shandon butter market, unable to compete, closed in 1924.
It was later converted to a hat factory but was destroyed by fire in 1976.
The former Cork Corporation purchased the derelict premises in 1980 and, with support from the IDA, developed it as a museum and craft centre.
The craft centre section of the building closed in 2008 and despite many attempts to find alternative uses, including the development of a food and music-themed visitor attraction, it has remained closed.