Vying for US business

TWO office sites in Cork City and suburbs are competing to woo a new US FDI occupier — with the promise of up to 500 IT-related jobs.

Vying for US business

The rival sites bidding for the c50,000 sq ft occupier deal are in Mahon, and the city centre. They are John Cleary Development/BAM’s recently amalgamated quayside plot on Albert Quay, in the city centre, next to City Hall, and O’Flynn Construction’s Motorola site in suburban Mahon. The 10-acre Motorola site is a kilometre from John Cleary’s City Gate 1 and 11 office developments, which were built speculatively and were hugely successful, despite the economic and employment downturn, attracting the likes of Dell and EMC.

The US firm is negotiating on a significant Cork base; well-placed sources say it would be a new presence, and a good match, for other recently located FDI firms in the region.

It’s keen to acquire a sizeable new-build, so existing spaces, at the likes of City Quarter on Lapps Quay, aren’t being considered: there’s 30,000 sq ft available in the top two floors of City Quarter, and that’s insufficient for the new arrival’s needs.

A number of key players and authorities, from the IDA to the Chamber of Commerce, builders’ group, the CIF, and national estate agencies and market commentators have, in the past year, stressed the need to have high-quality new office space ready for swift occupation by mobile FDI inward investment.

They’ve urged banks, developers, and Nama to facilitate speculative building of large floor-plate offices.

The US firm eyeing up Cork has met with representatives of the Mahon/Motorola and BAM sites within the past week, it’s understood, with a decision and jobs announcement likely to be made very shortly.

Last year, Cork had its largest office space take-up in a long number of years, and among the big space-occupiers was Abtran, for Irish Water, leasing 60,000 sq ft at the Motorola site in Mahon.

The 10-acre Motorola site was bought for €22.5m, in 2007, by O’Flynn Construction as a redevelopment play, and now has planning for a further 100,000 sq ft of new offices in a four-storey block, with parking.

Meanwhile, BAM/John Cleary Developments lodged in December 2013 for full planning for a new €50m, 200,000 sq ft office block on Albert Quay, after it added the ad joining Howard Holdings quay site to a BAM-owned site: each had full planning for offices, but now a new application has been made for an eight/ten storey building with top-floor set-backs, fronting the 17-storey Elysian building on three ‘gateway’ city acres.

Details of the IT firm’s interest in locating in Cork have been kept low-key, pending the signing of a deal to build and occupy. It comes as a new report from DTZ, on the recovery of the Irish office market, said momentum has been gained in Dublin primarily, where it’s now entrenched, with speculative building of 250,000 sq ft of offices underway. It notes “the Cork market is leading the recovery outside of the capital.”

There’s currently zero speculative office building in Cork and Limerick, where vacancy levels are high, especially of older and suburban stock, but “pipeline projects are already confirmed for the Cork and Limerick markets in 2014,” say DTZ.

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