A protected landmark Cork city building which has lain vacant for more than a decade is set to undergo specialist cleaning ahead of its regeneration as a tech and jobs hub.
Recreate Shandon CLG, the group which plans to restore and refurbish the historic former Butter Exchange building and craft centre in Shandon as a technology hub and enterprise centre, is set to embark on a major cleaning of the structure’s key heritage elements, including its portico and external walls, within weeks.
It marks a key milestone in the ambitious regeneration project, which has been several years in the pipeline.
Recreate Shandon, spearheaded by Sean O’Sullivan, the founder of the Seabrook Technology Group, was set up as a non-profit enterprise in 2020 to drive the regeneration of the striking building located in the shadow of the city’s famous Shandon steeple.
The group secured planning permission last summer for a change of use from a craft centre to a technology hub and enterprise centre, with 140sqm of new accommodation internally, and the adaption and upgrade of the building fabric including roofs, floors and walls, included.
And in an update this week, the group said the proposed specialist cleaning works are for the maintenance of the external walls in advance of any major refurbishment project at a later stage.
“The overall policy is to retain, restore and enhance the integrity and significance of the building in line with international charters and best practice,” it said.
The works will include a cleaning and tidy-up of the external elevations of the structure, including the external walls and portico, which will involve specialist removal of plant growth and moss, steam cleaning of the plasterwork and brickwork and repairing joints and loose material.
The works will be confined to the external historic fabric and some essential associated repairs that are likely to arise, they said.
The works are due to go to tender within days, with the appointment of a specialist contractor expected mid-March with works expected to start on site soon afterwards, and last about three weeks.
Local Fianna Fáil councillor Tony Fitzgerald welcomed the progress update.
“The Shandon area has been a priority for a long time and Recreate Shandon hope to make this building vibrant again,” he said.
“The details of the anchor tenants will come in time but hopefully this project will increase footfall to an area which is set to benefit from the huge restoration that is ongoing in the area.”
Recreate Shandon has also confirmed plans to apply soon for funding from Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Enterprise Development Fund to regenerate the building for modern office use.
The building was first developed in 1769 and became one of the most important commercial centres in Cork for the next 200 years until its closure in 1924. It was then home to a craft hub and hat factory for many years. It has been closed since 2008.
The building is a protected structure and is also included on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
In previous statements, Recreate Shandon has said the new hub will attract high-tech start-up enterprises in the ICT and digital sectors and will become a space where businesses, universities, and multinationals can exchange ideas, innovate, and develop cutting-edge products and services.