University Challenge: UCC's €450m investment to build for the future

University College Cork (UCC) is investing €450m in a series of ongoing capital projects including a major expansion of the Tyndall National Institute (TNI) to the North Mall, which will see a doubling of its activity and head count.

University Challenge: UCC's €450m investment to build for the future

University College Cork (UCC) is investing €450m in a series of ongoing capital projects including a major expansion of the Tyndall National Institute (TNI) to the North Mall, which will see a doubling of its activity and head count.

UCC and the Mercy University Hospital (MUH), who jointly acquired the North Mall Distillery Fields site in 2004, have co-commissioned consultants to prepare a site specific masterplan, which is nearing completion.

A Scott Tallon Walker led design team has been appointed for the project and is currently preparing the feasibility study.

Tim Cronin, UCC Capital Projects Officer, said the investment “will result in a doubling of the Tyndall activity levels and head count by 2027, and will also provide for a substantial increase in the level of collaborative activity with Irish and international industry”.

TNI is UCC’s flagship research institute, attracting research income of more than €29m in 2018. Its continued development is one of the key objectives in the government’s National Development Plan. Details of MUH’s plans for development of their portion of the North Mall site have also just come to light, with proposals to quadruple in size, from 22,000sq m to 90,200sq m.

The enlarged campus would incorporate a general hospital, supporting a new elective facility (as per government policy), on its existing city centre site and on the adjacent Distillery Fields, which is largely used for parking and includes a number of unused buildings.

BUSINESS SCHOOL

Plans are also progressing in relation to UCC’s new Cork University Business School, which will bring 4,000 students into the city centre, to the South Terrace/Cogley St site previously home to builders’ yard Brooks Haughton.

Mr Cronin said they are currently in the process of procuring a design team.

“We hope to conclude that process and appoint the successful design team in early summer.

“The plans are likely to differ from the previous planning application,” Mr Cronin said.

The site already has full planning permission for a development of 220,000sq ft, on 1.46 acres in a five-storey building with atrium and basement.

Mark Poland, UCC Director of Buildings and Estates, said the CUBS development is an ongoing example of the “intermingling of the city and the university”.

“We’ve always had a very good relationship with the city, we see ourselves as a city centre campus at the end of the day, that’s really part of the student experience,” he said.

Architectural students moved into the city centre, at Nano Nagle Place, in 2018 with the opening of the Cork Centre for Architectural Education. UCC also opened its Centre for Executive Education at the former Cork Savings Bank, 1 Lapps Quay, in 2018.

STUDENT ACCOMMODATION

Mark Poland, (right) director of Building's and Estates, UCC, Tim Cronin, capital projects officer with Alan Flynn, contracts manager Sisk's at the UCC student apartment development at Victoria Cross. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Mark Poland, (right) director of Building's and Estates, UCC, Tim Cronin, capital projects officer with Alan Flynn, contracts manager Sisk's at the UCC student apartment development at Victoria Cross. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Student accommodation is also part of the €450m investment, with work ongoing at the site of the former Crow’s Nest pub in Victoria Cross.

The development will add 255 beds to the existing UCC complement of 1,279 and is due for completion in summer 2021, in time for student occupation in September 2021, Mr Cronin said.

UCC, with 21,000 students and growing, is also moving ahead with plans to replace the sports grounds at The Farm on Curraheen Road with a new sports park, across the road from its current location.

The park will include a 1,800m running track a 1,300m inner walk, grass and synthetic playing pitches, and a synthetic hockey pitch.

Mr Cronin said a feasibility study has been completed and a design team appointed, lead by RPS. Mr Poland said they are hoping to progress to a planning application in the next six months.

DENTAL SCHOOL

UCC is also planning a new 8,500 sq m dental school and hospital in Curraheen in the Cork Science and Innovation Park (CSAIP).

The project has planning permission and Mr Poland said they are hopeful of breaking ground in August. €34m has been secured from the European Investment Bank (EIB) but the project is likely to cost closer to €45m.

A 3,500 sq m Health Innovation Hub is also planned for the (CSAIP) costing €16.5m. Tenders are in.

A 3,000 sq m Clinical Medical School is planned fore Cork University Hospital campus and a 20,000 sq m Clinical Research Network Hub.

ADDITIONAL DEVELOPMENTS

UCC's footprint today, top, compared to its footprint in 1850, bottom.
UCC's footprint today, top, compared to its footprint in 1850, bottom.

The university recently opened a new €15m student hub on campus, described as a “one-stop-shop” for students.

It is currently completing the conversion of the old College Bar into a facility designed according to autism-friendly design principles.

The facility will be open in a few months to all first years and students registered with the university’s disability support services (DSS). “It’s just to provide a calm space for students if the campus is overwhelming,” said Linda Doran, head of DSS at UCC.

Mr Poland said along with investing in new projects, UCC was continually investing in maintenance, with an ongoing backlog maintenance programme funded by a €25m loan from the EIB.

Under this programme the Kane (science) building, which dates back to the 1970s, will be “wrapped in new skin and maybe extended to the front”, Mr Poland said. He said the continued outward expansion of the university — west to Curraheen and south to Ringaskiddy, where the Beaufort Building houses UCC’s maritime and energy research centre — would benefit greatly from more investment in public transport, particularly the light rail system envisaged in the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy “to link up our sites”.

UCC has developed through a series of masterplans over the years. The current masterplan dates to 2011 and is currently under review. A new plan is expected later this year.

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