First views from inside Cork's dockland hotel and office developments

The office block One Horgan’s Quay and the 120-bed Dean Hotel are due for occupation from August of this year.

First views from inside Cork's dockland hotel and office developments

The overused expression “a vision of the future” usually means something well down the line: in Cork City, a future vision is plain to see, from the top floors of office and hotel buildings advancing in construction on the north quays.

And, it’s already on a line too, a spidery web of rail lines at the end of the city’s mile-long rail tunnel, a 19th-century engineering marvel of its day.

Looking down this week onto the sprawling Horgan’s Quay site, a hive of construction activity next to Kent Railway Station, is literally looking at live pipeline property delivery, or a major mixed use development that may tip the scale at close to €200m.

This is proper planning, 25 years in the offing, and offers a redressing balance of development of Cork’s north and south quays. It will be home to thousands of jobs across nearly 300,000sq ft of offices, with many hundreds of residents in just over 300 apartments, and a Dean Hotel, with retail, restaurant and leisure element too.

The first two elements, the office block One Horgan’s Quay, and the dramatic, 120-bed Dean Hotel, wedge-shaped with its edgy black aluminium skin (a welcome visual relief to the overall proliferation of “glass and steel” in a multitude of other recent city buildings,) are due for occupation from August of this year.

That’s according to Ronan Downing, who’s Development Director with Clarendon Properties and to Frank Brennan, the contracts manager with BAM Construction, on a site visit this week to the BAM/Clarendon Horgan’s Quay/HQ joint development, on CIE-owned lands.

There’s currently about 300 employed on the two adjoining, hectic sites, with hotel fit-out for operators Press Up due to start very shortly; glass is going in on the eight storey office block, having been held up slightly by recent high winds: however, all’s on schedule, says BAM’s Frank Brennan, who reckons about half their workforce here is Irish, the other 50% is quite the multi-national mix.

The Horgan’s Quay development is the single largest project currently under construction outside of Dublin, says Clarendon’s Ronan Downing, given it’s on six acres all-in, and with the quantity of mixed use buildings coming on stream.

Also of particular note is the scale of public realm being included in the six acres, with about 1.5 acres of plaza and routes between the buildings, with three architecture firms involved in the multi-faceted major scheme.

Notable too are the retention and repurposing and conservation of mid 1800s Victorian limestone buildings, a carriage shed, a goods shed and a station house, which link the new with the old, the industrial building archaeology of the past with 21st uses, as well as the proximity to the reoriented Kent Railway Station which now has new access points bringing it closer to the city for rail users.

A 9m-high Cork limestone wall embrace, part of the former goods shed, creates a unique entrance to One Horgan’s Quay (with industrial heritage-rooted office spaces under salvaged timber joists likely to find favour with tecchie companies) which has has a 9m cantilever over the front over public realm as a distinctive, soaring design feature.

An April start is indicated now for another, second office building, Two Horgan’s Quay, which will abut One, while a further building, Four, will follow behind. Each will have separate entrances, but can be linked internally if occupiers want extremely very large floor plate, or to expand horizontally instead of going up or down floors to accommodate future growth. Thus, the O’Mahony Pike-designed offices can allow for up to 42,000sq ft on individual level, with a 1:8 base occupancy, and include 13 lifts, 175 car parking spaces at grade level under building Two, along with 250 bike space and nearly 40 showers.

Letting agents are Savills, and Cushman & Wakefield and the largest committed occupier to-date is Spaces, a co-working company associated with IWG Ireland and Regus. Spaces is taking 30,000sq ft over two and a half floors at One Horgan’s Quay, and indicated rents are in the region of €35 psf.

Work started on the six acre Horgan’s Quay site in December 2018, due to deliver 800,000sq ft of building when complete, and about 60% of the 300+ apartments now approved will be two-beds, aimed at the PRS/Build To Rent sector.

Residential construction hasn’t yet commenced: “Viability is very challenging, to get the residential apartments to work in Cork. We are currently working hard on the detail design to try and get the project to stack up financially.”

Horgans’ Quay’s apartments are likely to compete for occupier and funds/buyers with proposed PRS apartment schemes at the Sextant site and at the city’s South Link Road, where planning is secured for another Elysian-sized apartment tower.

Clarendon’s Mr Downing says last month’s Brexit clarity has driven office inquires for Cork: Similar to JCD at the adjacent Penrose Dock, and O’Callaghan Properties at Navigation Square, he reports very healthy inquiry demand, including the cyber-security sector.

Curiously, and coincidentally, with its mix of work, residential, and leisure, all set not much more than 500m from St Patrick’ Street, the Horgan’s Quay/HQ scheme delivers on the site’s historical ‘sustainability’ track record.

It’s pointed out that landfill needed to reclaim the ground that the lengthy quay and rail yard now stands on was “locally sourced” — it was excavated from the mile-long tunnel bored under the city’s northside sandstone hills, linking the quay to Kilbarry after a seven-year bore process, started in 1847.

DETAILS: Savills 021-4271371, Cushman & Wakefield, 021-4275454.

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