A religious conversion

A FORMER convent and school building overlooking Kinsale town in Cork may be in line for conversion to over 200 new houses and apartments.

The Mercy Convent, a high profile building on the Ramparts part of the town, was sold, with seven acres, for between €3 and €4 million, after it was put on the market 18 months ago.

Its new owners, civil engineering contractors Cumnor Construction, are to seek planning approval following preliminary discussions with Cork County Council and the UDC for 207 residential units, community facilities and 243 car parking spaces.

The application aims to preserve the building's facade. Most construction work will take place behind the building which has a strong visible presence from most parts of the town and from the harbour. The complex of buildings, dating to the time of the Famine, has served as day school, convent, industrial school, orphanage and boarding school.

The proposal includes 48 apartments in the converted school/convent/church building of varied heights up to four floors, a new four-storey block of 56 apartments, 56 houses, another block of 11 apartments and 36 duplex units.

The site has been an integral part of the town since the Mercy Order of Sisters first moved there in 1844. The order has since built a new convent and has retained an amount of green space which will not be built on.

Developer Eddie O'Mahony of Cumnor Construction said that the existing convent will look from the street as it does today, save for relatively minor changes.

The more significant areas of the convent complex, a preserved structure, are being retained and conserved, and the burial grounds will be left untouched, with care also being taken with the old chapel.

"The vast majority of the school will retain its form, fabric and structure with immediate grounds to the convent also being conserved," said Mr O'Mahony.

Parts of the site are zoned for community facilities but it hasn't yet been disclosed how this provision will be met in the current application.

The design team includes Jack Coughlan and Richard McGrath architects, McCutcheon Hogan as town planners and John O'Donovan engineer, with CB Hamilton Osborne King Peter Cave of CB Hamilton Osborne King dealing with the scheme which will bring new housing to the centre of a town where prices have remained high due to lack of supply.

A new apartment scheme of 60 apartments on Kinsale's quayfront is 75% sold, at prices from €250,000 to €450,000, and further new housing is expected on stream by Comogue Marsh in the New Year.

Meanwhile, a planning application for 96 new homes in Seafield, Youghal in East Cork was also signalled this week, by applicants Catherine McCarthy and Mary O'Connor.

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