Cork looking up as cranes set to dominate city skyline at developments worth €1bn

High hopes that economy will remain strong and southern capital will realise its full potential, writes Stephen Rogers

Cork looking up as cranes set to dominate city skyline at developments worth €1bn

High hopes that economy will remain strong and southern capital will realise its full potential, writes Stephen Rogers

In 2003, there were 11 cranes prominent in the skyline over Cork City working on a myriad of new developments.

The towering presences meant offices were being built to cater to the expanding workforce, apartment blocks were being developed to assuage the demand for city-centre living, and shopping centres were springing up to help empty our bulging wallets.

The then city manager, Joe Gavin, predicted that cranes would dominate the Cork skyline in the run up to the city’s year as the Capital of Culture in 2005 and would remain a fixture for many years to come.

There are several more years of development in the city centre and, after that, there could be 20 years of construction in the docklands area, especially in the 4km of prime river frontage which exists there,” he said.

He was right... to an extent. A part of the “prime river frontage” was transformed by both Howard Holdings and O’Flynn Construction within a couple of years of that prediction.

Howard Holdings, under the leadership of Greg Coughlan, had brought Cork the €100m City Quarter.

That comprised the Clarion Hotel (now the Clayton) and office development as well as the impressive boardwalk. The package was seen, at the time, as setting a benchmark for what was achievable in one of the most radical and eagerly anticipated regeneration projects ever undertaken in the State.

O’Flynn Construction’s Five and Six Lapp’s Quay was an impressive neighbour to City Quarter.

Together, they seemed to point to what was possible in Cork’s rejuvenation. It was reported at the time that Howard Holdings seemed destined to play a strong future role in the redevelopment of the rest of the docklands.

Anticipation would already have been building for the 17-storey, 68.2m-tall Elysian development, which would be the tallest in the country, while within a couple of years, O’Callaghan Properties would have spearheaded the transformation of shopping in the city centre, with the development of Academy Stt and Opera Lane, but then it imploded.

Ballydehob native Coughlan reportedly had €4bn worth of projects in the pipeline by 2007, including the building of the Olympic Sailing Village in Weymouth, London, for the 2012 Olympics.

By January 2010, he and two other men involved in Howard Holdings were before the courts with total judgment orders for more than €60m entered against them and, within months Greg Coughlan was the subject of an arrest warrant over his failure to obey court orders in proceedings over unpaid loans.

The demise of Howard Holdings in such spectacular circumstances was symptomatic of how the construction industry had collapsed.

The rejuvenation of Cork had fallen by the wayside. By 2012, skylines across the country were clear right up to the grey clouds which reflected the national mood, while many of the building sites over which the cranes would previously have towered either remained unfinished or lay vacant. The shells which littered our cities were the result of expensive gambles gone wrong.

Fast forward six years, and the (crane) boom is back with a bang, with a billion euro worth of development in the pipeline or under construction across Cork city. Luxury hotels, 40-storey skyscrapers, “platinum” quality office spaces and hundreds of new student beds are all in the offing. The artists’ impressions point to cosmopolitan, angular structures featuring cutting-edge design.

There are different names on the blocks this time around. One of the most active developers is John Cleary of JCD, who has already given the city the revitalised Capitol cinema site and One Albert Quay and is now bringing a new lease of life to Penrose Quay and South Mall.

According to the company’s website, having completed its first commercial development in Cork over 20 years ago, it has since financed, developed, and continues to manage over 1.4m square feet of commercial property across the country.

Kerry native Kevin O’Sullivan’s plans have the potential to be the most eye-catching and seem inspired by his connections with the US. The Prism building on Clontarf St pays homage to the legendary 1902 Flatiron building in New York, while his aspirations for a 40-plus storey development in the Port of Cork could come complete with a beacon-like spire if initial drawings are anything to go by.

BAM’s €400m redevelopment of Horgan’s Quay may be eagerly awaited, but as so many Cork people know, it is another of its plans which is causing the headlines. BAM wants to build a world-class events centre for the city. The public wants a world-class events centre, but the question of who is going to foot the bill is stopping progress. In recent days, the head of the construction firm said that, if it wasn’t for his own commitment, the whole process would have collapsed. He pointed out that it was a project Cork had been talking about for about 25 years with six or seven attempts to bring it to fruition before BAM got involved.

About €20m in state funding was pledged for the venue over three years ago, but after a redesign, the State has been asked to invest an extra €10m. In February, Bam said a funding deal had been agreed in principle and it hoped to start building before the end of the year. Funding talks are ongoing, and it could be another six to eight weeks before a planning application for the redesigned venue is submitted.

Another development, which could prove popular if it goes ahead, is at the Wilton Shopping Centre, where a major expansion is in the offing. An initial application proposed to retain the centre’s existing malls, while redeveloping the entire northern side of the complex, with a vast, new, mixed retail-use area, ranging in height from two to seven storeys, on the site of the Penney’s outlet, which faces demolition. A 14-screen cinema with capacity for 1,500 patrons would be constructed, along with a 190-bed hotel, two new public plazas, and a multi-storey car park.

The application for a 10-year planning permission was formally declared ‘incomplete’ by the council and there is no sign as yet of a replacement.

Too many Celtic Tiger projects were built on rocky foundations at a time when multimillion loans were being sought from banks which were only too willing to oblige.

Let’s hope that, with supposedly greater checks and balances in place, the economy will hold strong and the full potential of the city can be realised.

85 South Mall

This project will include 46,000sq ft of gold LEED (Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design) office space.

The new building, designed by architects Henry J Lyons, extends from South Mall to Crane Lane, Phoenix St, and Smith St.

The development by JCD is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Once complete, it will accommodate 450 jobs over five floors.

The building also features south- facing terraces on the third and fourth floors overlooking the South Mall and looking east towards the River Lee and City Hall.

According to the website for the development, construction is ongoing with tenant fitout to commence in Q4 2018 and available for occupation in January 2019.

The Prism

This slim, 15-storey, €20m triangular-shaped office tower in the heart of the city is inspired by the legendary 22-storey 1902 Flatiron building in New York City.

Proposed by Kerry builders Tower Holdings, headed by Kevin O’Sullivan, the Prism is set to be slotted into a tiny 3,000sq ft footprint next to the city’s bus station at Clontarf St.

Tower Holdings paid close to €1m for The Prism site, which has lapsed planning for a nine-storey 31,000sq ft office building.

On the site, 60,000sq m of offices are proposed.

A rooftop terrace for staff above the 14th floor is also planned.

This will have a canopy structure oversailing the public footpath adjoining Clontarf St.

The design is by Cork-based architects Reddy Architecture + Urbanism.

Horgans Quay

This is €400m scheme of up to 240 apartments, a 136-bedroom hotel with a rooftop garden, and 400,000sq ft of offices with capacity for up to 5,000 employees.

The planned development is spread across eight buildings on a six-acre riverside site alongside the city’s train station.

Plans for the proposed development by Clarendon/BAM were appealed to An Bord Pleanála by Port of Cork in March of this year, after being approved by City Hall, but the appeal has been withdrawn.

The planning application revealed the scale of the development, which has 160m of frontage to Horgan’s Quay, looking south over the river Lee, and which was worked on by three firms of architects as part of a large design team.

It has been reported that the hospitality group Press Up Entertainment will operate the hotel.

Sullivan’s Quay

The site of the old Revenue Commissioners and government offices has been cleared under plans by BAM Property Ltd, who proposed a 220-bedroom hotel as well as nearly 7,800sq m of office space.

The mix of hotel and office use was modified to deal with Cork City Council concerns about scale, as the company said fewer hotel rooms would have put at risk the planned partnership on the deal with an international hotel brand lined up to occupy the property.

Once completed, the four-star hotel is expected to be operated by a “premium international hotel brand”.

The development has been granted planning by Cork City Council but is currently appealed to An Bord Pleanála by An Taisce, with a decision due at the end of this month.

Washington St

The scheme on the former Square Deal furniture premises, Washington St West will see the site redeveloped to provide around 200 bed spaces just a five-minute walk from University College Cork’s main campus.

It is only a short walk another student accommodation project on the site of a former service station (see right).

More than half of the Square Deal site bed spaces will be provided in clusters of four and five bedrooms.

The withdrawal of the appeal by the owner of a neighbouring residential and medical facility means applicant firm Summix WSC Developments Ltd is now approved to begin work subject to the council’s planning conditions.

The concern had been about the potential for overshadowing on apartments and subsequent impact on rental values.

Western Road

There are 190 student bed spaces under construction and due for occupation by September in this development on the former site of the Muskerry service station near the lower gates of University College Cork.

Through the planning stages, the project was associated with UK student accommodation specialists Ziggurat, but was part of a recent acquisition of several projects by an international joint venture in the same market, Harrison Street Real Estate Capital, and Global Student Accommodation Group, GSA.

In total, the joint venture is providing more than 600 student beds in Cork and 700-plus in Dublin in a progressive €200m-plus spend. The others in Cork are at the Brewery Quarter site where 413 beds are to be provided.

Custom House tower

In April last year it emerged that Time Square Construction Operations, which is owned by Kerry native Kevin O’Sullivan, had bought the site in the Port of Cork, reportedly for a figure in the region of €5m, subject to planning for a mixed-used €250m development.

It had been expected that it could house a landmark development. In the interim, negotiations have been ongoing with Cork City Council for a 40-plus storey skyscraper which would house a hotel and apartments.

The signature tower would be up to twice the height of the 17-storey Elysian building in Cork City and Liberty Hall in Dublin.

Planning is expected to be lodged later this year which will seek to upgrade the existing building and to include a “visitor experience” with a mini-brewery among the features being considered.

Mr O’Sullivan has said he wants the development to be a “landmark project” which will be “a real game-changer for Cork”.

Camden Place

This five-storey office development will have 65,000sq ft of space for letting, 7,000sq ft of terraces, and 30m of river frontage.

The property, which is due to be completed by the summer of 2019, will have enough space for up to 500 workers.

The 72,000sq ft gross floor area has floor plates ranging from 8,950 to 16,350 sq ft and 2.8m floor to ceiling height.

It will also be adjacent to a 400-space multi-storey car park.

According to the development’s website, the historic meets the contemporary in the design by BBMOC Architects. Dating from the late 19th century, this local landmark was, for decades, home to Atkins Garden Centre. During the 1990s, it temporarily housed Cork’s courthouse, before most recently playing host to a community arts centre.

Victoria Cross

This project on the former Crow’s Nest bar site at Victoria Cross is another new student accommodation building.

The 255-bed development is set to rise to eight and up to 10 storeys, across four linked blocks, on the western suburban site of the former Crow’s Nest bar.

It is immediately adjacent to the University College Cork-owned University Hall, Victoria Lodge, and Victoria Mills developments.

The 8,700sq m development was proposed by University College Cork itself and will also feature a health and wellness centre.

The development of the student accommodation is part of the UCC Capital Development Programme, supported by European Investment Bank funding.

Maldron Hotel, South Mall

This hotel, which will have entrances on both Parnell Place and the Mall, will be one of the biggest in Cork’s city centre when it opens its doors, at this stage in December.

Six storeys high, with another two below ground level, the hotel will contain 163 rooms.

It will also have two restaurants and a bar, and there is also due to be a Red Bean Roastery coffee shop facing onto South Mall.

It will have six meeting rooms of various sizes, the largest of which will cater for up to 90 people.

The hotel is due for completion in December.

Penrose Dock

This is a €125m, 250,000sq ft office development by JCD on 1.8 quayside acres by Kent railway station.

It includes the historic Penrose House.

The two buildings proposed, ringed by Penrose Quay, Railway St, and Alfred St, will be six and eight floors over ground level, with a double basement for 160 cars.

The design is by Wilson Architecture, which did the Capitol office and retail development, also for John Cleary’s development company.

If planning is granted, the construction work would start immediately.

The building will take 18 months to complete and will employ up to 250 people on site.

When complete it is expected to have capacity to accommodate over 2,200 employees.

It’s not revealed if JCD has tenants lined up for Penrose Dock, but the company — which also is developing a €200m data centre and e-Park in Little Island — has pledged to build as soon as planning is granted, and a spokesperson has said it is in talks with potential occupiers.

Navigation Square

The O’Callaghan Properties 310,000sq ft development is spread over four blocks on a 2.25-acre site on Albert Quay.

It is bounded by the quay and the River Lee to the north and by Victoria Road and Albert Quay and Albert St, about 250m from City Hall.

Buildings will run up to six floors, over two basement levels, with 100,000sq ft of parking for cars, motorbikes, and bicycles.

The developer says the offices are designed to provide general office accommodation and space for other business and technology uses, with a mix of floor areas from 7,000sq ft to 22,500sq ft.

The four blocks on Albert Quay, facing the Port of Cork, are on the site which was first proposed by O’Callaghan Properties for an events centre.

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