Rehab hospital, 2,000 homes, and 5,000 jobs in huge new Cork City South Docks scheme

The plan includes new life for the Odlums building and will seek permission for the demolition of the former R&H Hall concrete grain silo building on the city side
Rehab hospital, 2,000 homes, and 5,000 jobs in huge new Cork City South Docks scheme

An artist impression of the proposal from O'Callaghan Properties for the redevelopment of Cork's South Docks. Picture: Flythrough

A specialist 130-bed rehabilitation hospital, to be just the second in Ireland, forms part of the first €350 million phase of a long-term development project for Cork City's South Docks.

Just lodging for planning permission this week is stage one of a mixed-use, far-reaching proposal by private developers O'Callaghan Properties (OCP) for a sprawling 31-acre docklands campus they acquired in 2019 for €47.5m from Origin Enterprises.

It includes as a first element, one million square feet of development, with a 122,000 sq ft 130-bed and treatment facilities rehabilitation hospital to be run by French medical group ORPEA.

ORPEA has already made a €250m foray into Ireland's health, medical, and nursing home sectors, and this treatment hospital for stroke, spinal, and brain injuries will be second only to the 60-year old publicly funded National Rehabilitation Centre in Dún Laoghaire. 

Works could start in the first quarter of 2023 if planning is secured.

An artist impression of the proposal from O'Callaghan Properties for the redevelopment of Cork's South Docks. Picture: Flythrough
An artist impression of the proposal from O'Callaghan Properties for the redevelopment of Cork's South Docks. Picture: Flythrough

Also included for OCP's first tranche of development on the 4.1-acre section of the massive 31-acre total landbank acquired by OCP, and closest to the city centre, is 450,000 sq ft of offices across three main blocks, along with 160 apartments, in two sections aimed both at owner-occupiers and rentals, and including the repurposing of the iconic red-brick Odlums building on Kennedy Quay, dating to the 1890s and extended upwards in the 1930s. Design is by Henry J Lyons Architects.

That reworked and extended red-brick grain building will include a food court to the rear at ground, similar to European city markets or Dublin's Powerscourt Centre, some retail and leisure use, while above will be a mix of offices and apartments around a courtyard, with a top-floor glass-walled restaurant.

Provision is being made in the project for a bridge over the River Lee for Cork's proposed east-west light rail transport, from Ballincollig linking through Kent Rail Station, and over to the south docks to serve Mahon and other points to the south and east of the city, due after 2030.

The proposal will have the Odlums Mills building as its cultural reference with overhead apartments, open roof trusses and billed as a milestone and “a cultural and tourist landmark for years to come.” 
The proposal will have the Odlums Mills building as its cultural reference with overhead apartments, open roof trusses and billed as a milestone and “a cultural and tourist landmark for years to come.” 

OCP plans to progress its first-phase plans in two planning applications, and will seek permission for the demolition of the former R&H Hall concrete grain silo building on the city side next to the Odlums building.

It says it will reinstate a building of similar scale to the R&H Hall structure, up to 12 storeys/54m tall, recreating some features — the vertical emphasis with glass lift shafts on the river aspect, the oval top windows, lettering/font — and integrate some of the industrial archaeology of the building, such as grain hoppers, into the replacement.

OCP managing director Brian O'Callaghan said they had looked at all options for the concrete silos, but its particular structure, with over 104 internal honeycomb columns, no support floors for 33m internally, and poor state of the concrete in the 90-year old structure with cracking and spalling “means that the existing structural concrete cannot be relied upon to achieve a sound new structure or built fabric". 

According to Mr O'Callaghan, the project “creates a new focal point for the city, a new, sustainable amenity of scale. 

"This project provides compelling new options for FDI and indigenous investment and makes a very clear statement about the city and the business opportunities in optimal locations outside of Dublin.” 

Further, future elements of OCP's plans for the South Docks include up to a total of 2,000 residential units, mostly high-density apartments but including some houses to allow for a social occupier mix.

 A view of the former Odlums building and R & H Hall building on Kennedy Quay, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
A view of the former Odlums building and R & H Hall building on Kennedy Quay, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Apartments in the first phase will be pitched both at the build-to-rent and private rental sector and with approximately 80 for owner-occupiers, as proposals contained in the Government's Housing for All strategy, announced in September (yet to be fully outlined) under the 'Croí Cónaithe (Towns) Fund, would make this residential sector financially viable, stated Mr O'Callaghan.

The OCP 31-acre site, just east of completed office schemes at Navigation Square, One Albert Quay, and the Sextant/Carey Tool site downriver from City Hall, is close to other major future docklands development sites at the Marina Commercial Park, Tedcastles site, and Fords/Live at the Marquee site owned by Glenveagh Properties. 

There are long-term plans for up 20,000 residential units as Cork City is predicted to grow by 50% by 2040 under the National Development Plan.

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