DEVELOPMENT on Cork’s docklands prime Origin site, with a €47.5m purchase, agreed this week, could take place over a possible start period in three years time, and lasting to as much as 20+ years to complete, such is its scale and scope.
It has potential under current masterplans for up to 4 million square feet of development at a possible capital value over time of €1bn, with 40% allocated for high-density residential accommodation. And, density and heights may rise even more in the city’s new Dockland LAP, due to be published by year’s end.
It has scope for up to 1,600 apartments for city-based office workers, many of them international and mobile, but developing them will only be viable if development costs and a taxation burden of up to 30% of the value is addressed.
That’s according to Brian O’Callaghan, second-generation MD at the helm of the 50-year old Cork-based building and development company after he secured what’s widely acknowledged to be Cork city’s best and most developable docklands site, from owners the agri-business giant Origin Enterprises.
Its proximity to the city centre and expanding Central Business District beyond Albert Quay allows for incremental and sequenced redevelopment, according to Mr O’Callaghan, who said OCP was (initially at least) providing its own funding for the purchase.
The ‘conditional agreement’ deal on 30 acres, to include the 19-acre Goulding fertiliser site on Centre Park Road and the Odlums building on Kennedy Quay, was confirmed Tuesday to the Irish Stock Exchange by publicly-quoted Origin Enterprises.
They will now have to carry hefty relocation expenses downriver, to the former IFI plant at Marino Point and possibly also to Ringaskiddy.
The combined Origin sites, totalling 31 acres, had carried a €44m book value on the company’s accounts, and this was topped up in the negotiated deal to €47.5m, with - surprisingly - Origin saying they stood to make just a €3.5m gain after their moves.
The acquisition will be subject to a number of conditions, including relocations, and also subject to planning permissions and approval for a new Masterplan, according to Mr O’Callaghan who indicated a lead architect had not yet been appointed.
The deal has been nearly a year in negotiation, and came several years after Origin Enterprises sought to sell the five acres Odlums/R&H Hall properties, closest to the water and campshires, on over five acres.
That was back in 2013, via Savills at the time, and among the stronger developer interest was O’Callaghan Properties, and John Cleary Developments: Origin (who drafted their own masterplan back in 2008 with Reddy Architecture) subsequently withdrew it from the low-profile sale.
In terms of scale, and ambition for OCP, the €47.5m deal represents the largest city site deal ever, and may be on a par with the deal for 111-acres at Mahon, worth over Ir£40m, and the 150 acres bought for Liffey Valley Shopping Centre.
“It’s one of the best sites I’ve ever come across, it has so much potential, and it is developing out in the right direction from the city and new developments. The city can’t really go west, it has to go in this direction, towards Blackrock,” he gestured yesterday, eyeing the Origin site from the top of OCP’s rapidly advancing Block B at the 350,0000 sq ft Navigation Square office development alongside, on Albert Quay.
The Origin site can take over ten times that quantum of mixed development, including commercial, residential/accommodation, and possibly cultural and medical also.
Mr O’Callaghan pledged to retain and work with the quays’ and river proximity and views, working with its “feel and vibe, that’s it’s USP or unique selling point.”
The red-brick Odlums building, a protected structure, will find a new purpose but the concrete silos of the R&H Hall structure would prove nearly impossible to redevelop, he indicated.
The company saw both residential/apartment and office development on the south quays, facing Horgans Quays current building activity. “We need apartments for the workers who’ll come to our offices, but Government support is needed to make apartment development viable. Right now, I’d have to be getting €2,200 a month rent for a two-bed apartment, and that’s not on,” he asserted.
And, for Cork to achieve the 2040 population growth targets, support is needed for infrastructure, the Dunkettle interchange, the Ringaskiddy M28 and the Cork-Limerick motorway, to give swift access to Shannon airport for US FDI firms.
Revealing that O’Callaghan Properties is in advanced discussions with two potential occupiers for space in Blocks B and C at Navigation Square, he said Brexit had the potential to be very positive for cities like Cork in the financial services, IT and cyber-security sectors.