Refurbishment puts No1 back at the top of the street on Cork’s iconic South Mall

A €2 million refurbishment is wrapping up on an iconic 1960s Cork city office with a strong and historic back-story and with a raft of new tenants lining up on completion.
Refurbishment puts No1 back at the top of the street on Cork’s iconic South Mall
Cork architect Frank Murphy’s wedge-shaped design is regarded as emblematic of the 1960s.
Cork architect Frank Murphy’s wedge-shaped design is regarded as emblematic of the 1960s.

A €2 million refurbishment is wrapping up on an iconic 1960s Cork city office with a strong and historic back-story and with a raft of new tenants lining up on completion.

Currently fitting out at No 1 South Mall is Irish Life Health, on floor three of the reinvigorated, wedge-shaped building book-ending the South Mall, facing City Hall (see pic, below).

In earlier were O’Mahony Pike architects on the first floor, having moved from 26/27 South Mall, and law firm Regan Wall, are in too, on floor two.

Each floor is now open plan, with c 2,900 sq ft and has glazing on three sides, and rentals are on long-term leases and achieving the quoted €24 psf, according to agent Margate Kelleher of Lisney, who are currently actively marketing the upper floors, four and five.

Involved in the last several investment sales of the high-profile Leeside building, Lisney have themselves been ground floor occupiers at No 1 since 2005, having moved from 67-69 South Mall.

Built to replace the Victorian Gothic revival red-brick building Sutton House at No 1 South Mall which was gutted by fire in 1963, No 1 South Mall was designed by Cork architect Frank Murphy, and is regarded as a classic of its era, in an emerging robust Irish economy.

The six-storey replacement for Sutton House was tagged Royal Liver House for a lengthy period, and was later branded Gardner House, a generic name used for offices of then tenant PriceWaterhouse Cooper.

No 1 last changed hands back in 2016, when it was bought after a competitive sales process by a Cork-based private investor, for over €3m, in excess of the then-guide price of €2.75m.

Previous buyers had been Cork businessman Leo O’Brien, and his son Breifne, who paid close to €10 million for the 17,500 sq ft wedge-shaped building back in 2006, for a then-low 3.5% yield.

Subsequently, Breifne O’Brien achieved notoriety in Irish business circles when a Ponzi scheme he had initiated and ran for over decade imploded, losing up to €40 million and stinging family, friends and other investors. Described as Ireland’s Berrnie Madoff, he was given a seven year jail sentence.

The O’Brien purchase via tender of 1 South Mall was for well in excess of the €7.5m/€8m guide price at the time, with potential rental income of €315,000. Lisney handled the sale for receiver Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton. Vendors in the peak-times, 2006 transaction were Chris Jones and Frank Rhatigan of Dublin-based Ellier Developments, who’d bought it in 2000 for c €4.5 million.

The current owner is a private investor who bought it in 2016 in a best bids process for an unconfirmed €3m plus.

At the time of that sale, one floor was vacant, and it was producing an income of just over €270k pa, and at the €2.75m guide held the prospect of a 8.6% return, but had time running out on leases, with tenants then including Royal and Sun Alliance, and PWC. PWC subsequently moved to new offices, 250 metres away across the Lee’s south Channel to One Albert Quay.

Since, the owner has spent a further €2m on the post-purchase refurb, having stripped back to shell, with work done by Waterford-based contractors, DFL.

The remaining two floors are available at a rent of €24 psf pa with a new, quality landlord spec, LED lighting, air-con, lift access, and South Mall, City Hall and river vistas.

Letting agent Ms Kelleher describes No 1 South Mall as “an iconic building with a prestigious office address in Cork terms. It has appealed to the indigenous market in the main and is an excellent example of the opportunity to refurbish and modernise purpose-built office buildings to appeal to the modern occupier.”

DETAILS: Lisney 021-4275079

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