Mall gets its mojo back

HIGH vacancy levels on Cork City’s South Mall may finally be reversed, with an overall rise in the economy, and in the demand for professional services and indigenous offices.

Mall gets its mojo back

That’s according to Savills agent, Sam Daunt, who has a number of telling deals agreed, in train and completed, all of which show that there’s life, and confidence, in the old street yet, at the traditional heartland of banking and business in the southern capital.

The South Mall fell victim to changing office needs, the emergence of a new business district around Parnell Place, George’s Quay, Lapps Quay, and now Albert Quay, too, with further moves into Anderson’s Quay and perhaps back to Horgan’s Quay, where a CIE site is expected to come soon for joint development proposals.

The Mall was hit by office closures, contractions, bank branch sell-offs, and by the relocation of the likes of City Hall, which centralised much activity back to its new civic offices on Anglesea Street, and by private companies, such as law firm, Ronan Daly Jermyn, who moved to City Gate Plaza, in Mahon.

Office-vacancy rates in Cork currently average circa 20%, though this is likely to be higher on the South Mall, probably closer to 25%. But this may now be reducing slightly, bit by bit, deal by deal, while others push for a more varied mix of uses over the long-term on this commercial boulevard.

The evidence now, of new occupants to vacant South Mall space, is of mixed background and space needs — and includes a relocating, family-run law firm, Michael Enright & Co Solicitors, moving from Sheares Street, where they’ve been for 20 years.

Enrights are taking 1,475 sq ft net at 28 South Mall, part of the first floor and the entire second floor of this three-storey, 1960s, architect-designed building. It’s two doors from Jacobs on the Mall, above and next to offices at 28/29 South Mall, which are occupied by Comyn Kelleher Tobin solicitors. The space will accommodate about eight to 10 staff, it’s understood, and fit-out is underway, due for completion by mid-late May.

“Some legal practices may look to move outside of the city centre, but we still see an advantage in being based centrally, the Mall is a hub” said a spokesperson for the family firm.

“Much of our contact with clients is over the phone or by email, but many clients do work in the city, and the South Mall has always been a prime and prominent location for legal firms in Cork,” they added.

Also let by Mr Daunt, to accommodate a similar number of employees, was the first floor of 55 South Mall, where 1,080 sq ft was let to BDO Services, an audit-and-accountancy firm, and a lease is being finalised on the next floor above, at 55 South Mall, to vRide Ireland Ltd, an Irish subsidiary of a US web-based van-pooling firm. vRide is taking 1,170 sq ft, again suitable for eight to 10 staff.

Currently under active negotiation in one let is the entirety of 38 South Mall, totalling 2,320 sq ft. It’s a self-contained building, with own-door access over three floors. It’s currently under active negotiation for the entire building to be let as one.

At the VHI building, 70 South Mall, a fifth-floor office unit of 2,400 sq ft has terms-agreed to an as-yet undisclosed IT firm.

Rentals are typically for five years, and rents range from €10 to €12 per sq ft, some are on stepped rents, and one deal was for three years.

“There’s a definite pick-up, with a number of deals going on in the last four months,” says Mr Daunt. Also now under active negotiation, with two potential tenants, is the entire ground floor of 2 Georges Quay, where over 1,550 sq ft has been vacant since the building was developed eight years ago, he says.

“Interest for medium-sized units on the South Mall, say between 1,100 to 2,000 sq ft, has increased in the last number of months. Office space that has been vacant for the last number of years is now becoming attractive to new companies, or to existing South Mall companies wishing to expand.

“With the uplift and confidence in the indigenous market in Cork, this is having a knock-on effect, with vacancy levels decreasing on the South Mall,” notes Mr Daunt.

Details: Savills, 021-4271371

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