Horgan’s Quay looks back on track

Twenty years after it hit national headlines, set political and business shock waves and repercussions that saw Ministerial resignations, tribunals and indirectly the demise of a serving Taoiseach, Cork City’s Horgan’s Quay site is back up for grab, openly this time, by tender.

Horgan’s Quay looks back on track

It’s being sold by CIE, who have just agreed a development deal in Dublin with Johnny Ronan for part of its Tara Street station/block for a 22-storey office tower of 175,00 sq ft, a new Hill of Tara.

One of Cork’s great under-developed sites, south-facing over the River Lee and a key element of any dockland renewal ambitions, Horgan’s Quay has been the focus of redevelopment ambitions for more than two decades.

Back in 1995, an attempt to sell it without going to open tender saw then Fine Gael Minister Michael Lowry make allegations of cosy cartels and golden circles, when developer Owen O’Callaghan mooted proposals for an 800- job technology park next to Kent Station.

In hindsight, it was a modest target, given the 1,400 jobs due in 2016 in John Cleary’s current One Albert Quay development on the south quays, with main occupier Tyco’s fit-out now in full swing.

The allegations on Horgan’s Quay made a full 20 years ago had repercussions in Moriarty, Flood and Mahon Tribunals, with Michael Lowry forced to resign after the disclosure of payments to Ben Dunne, and the late Hugh Coveney (then a FG junior Defence minister,) also resigned after revelations he had made for State contracts for his own quantity surveying business.

The 17-acre Cork site sale that played a role in starting such an extraordinary chain of events was mothballed, and lay untouched bar for rail use until the early 2000s.

Then, Dublin-based Manor Park Homes was successful in its bid to develop a smaller portion under licence with CIE.

Proposed at one stage was up to 1,500 apartments, in a €500 million scheme, and the then City Manager Joe Gavin also proposed it as a centre for a 5,000 sq ft conference centre.

A planning application for phase one was lodged in late 2006, for seven apartment blocks, including one of 24 storeys, some 23 metres higher than the now-completed Elysian tower.

Again, nothing came of it, with a market downturn in 2007/08 shattering development dreams and wiping out many of the country’s main property players.

Proposals for a conference/events centre shifted to Owen O’Callaghan’s site on Albert Quay at Navigation House. Later, in a play-off between rival sites, BAM/Heineken won to right to develop the events facility with considerable State and civic aid, at Cork’s South Main Street.

Planning is granted, but it still lacks financial certainty.

Having seen poor times, good times, worse times and now an economic recovery, Horgan’s Quay looms back on the Cork horizon and into the city’s consiciousness.

CIE is offering six acres of its long Horgan’s Quay holding, at the city end by Kent Station, Railway Street and Lower Glanmire Road.

It is described by CIE and appointed agents Downing Commercial as a brownfield site, with three protected structures on it as well as a surface level car park which is used by rail commuters.

It has City Council zoning to “promote the development of mixed uses to ensure the creation of a vibrant urban area, working in tandem with the principles of sustainable development, transportation and self-sufficiency.”

Agent John Downing says it has scope for uses such as offices, hotel, and local retail (subject to planning permission) and he seeks proposals by December 16.

On behalf of CIE, he is offering the six acres on a 300-year ground lease, and CIE will take an annual rent (CPI Indexed) or alternatively 10% of the market rent from the new buildings, whichever income is higher.

This is similar to CIE’s proposals to redevelop Tara House, Dublin, for an office block of up to 22 storeys; it went to market in May via Lisney, secured by successful bidder Johnny Ronan under licence.

A line in the paperwork associated with this latest attempt to find a new developer for Cork’s Horgan’s Quay notes “this transaction is not deemed to be a public works contract, public works concession contract or any contract covered by European and/or Irish public procurement legislation.”

Given the prime location, interest is expected to come from local bidders and further afield, with hotel operator interest guaranteed given the need for a new hotel in Cork, and the lift in confidence and employment with John Cleary Developments’ 170,000 sq ft One Albert Quay set to be fully let on completion in early 2016.

Last week, the Clarion Hotel at the City Quarter developments (by Howard Holdings, in mid-2000s) sold to Delata for €35m, and other City Quarter investments are now set to flow in train.

Stressing Horgan’s Quay’s accessibility, aspect and proximity to the city centre, Downing Commercial add there is a new public transport roadway under construction which will serve as a link between Railway Street and the quays.

The site has almost 200 metres quay frontage, and permitted heights here may range four- to six-storeys, with a maximum of seven storeys, considered for buildings fronting onto the river.

The site’s disposal includes a five-year licence to enable the selected bidder to secure planning permission for, and to construct, a scheme of development on the site, to be followed by a 300- year lease on practical completion..

A data room has been established and bidders will be asked to specify the proposed licence fee and the CPI-linked base rental for the long lease. Tender date is December 16 - it might be done by Christmas.

DETAILS: DowningCommerical 021-4271000

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