Planning permission is to be sought within days by a new company, Trigon Hotels, associated with Philip Hotel Holdings Ltd who bought the 112-bed Metropole two years ago for €5m.
It followed up its acquisition later in 2015 by buying the adjacent PJ O’Hea 0.36 acre site across Harley Street for €1.35 million, and has spent over a year drawing up plans for what will be Cork’s largest hotel complex in two associated buildings with glass bridge links above Harley Street, but all centered on the classic Metropole, which celebrates its 120th anniversary this year.
The proposal also dovetails with just announced City Hall plans for a new pedestrian/cycle bridge from Merchant’s Quay to St Patrick’s Quay, and - handily - to MacCurtain Street via Harley Street, due by 2019.
Design of the very significant linked hotels proposal, which involves demolition of later extensions to the Arthur Hill-designed famed hotel and reinstatement with six floors plus set-back, and central double height Winter Garden for natural light in the block’s core, is headed up by Séan Kearns of Reddy Architecture + Urbanism.
Trigon is headed in Cork by director Vincent O’Farrell, ex Power Corporation, and the rapidly established group also owns the Cork International Hotel and Cork Airport Hotel, currently employing 200 staff across the three hotels, says group general manager Aaron Mansworth.
The plan is to first build the three-star M Hotel, described by Reddy’s Séan Kearns as “a hotel for digital age with phone check-in” etc, and then to have staff transfer over while the Metropole block is tackled and bought to “four-star plus” standards, says Mr O’Farrell.
All of the Arthur Hill designed Victorian/Edwardian section on MacCurtain Street will be retained (Jack Coughlan Associates are acting as conservation architects) and the new build will add two basement levels of car parking for 95 cars, add 140 new bedrooms plus 43 suites in the original portion, and have a rooftop function room for 200, linking also at top level by a second bridge to the M.
The Metropole entrance on MacCurtain Street will move to one side, and new boutique shop units will be reinstated at street level by the turret, as in the original building concept over 100 years ago.
And, further shops will be provided on St Patrick’s Quay by Harley Street under stone finished arches, while the main bulk of the structures above will be red brick with stone banding.
The overall Metropole expansion project comprises more than 22,800m (or six acres) of development across the two blocks, and the associated hotels will employ 200, with up to 300 construction jobs.
“This year marks the 120th anniversary of the iconic Metropole Hotel so it’s fitting that our extensive refurbishment plans for the ‘Grand Dame’ of Cork’s hotel market will see the property sensitively and lovingly restored to her former glory, or her return to greatness,” says Trigon director Mr O’Farrell.
Hotel group manager Aaron Mansworth adds: “The proposed restoration and expansion of the Metropole Hotel, in addition to the development of ‘The M’ hotel, will create significant local employment, bringing additional tourists and visitors to the area which is critical to the future economic prosperity of our city.”