TWO Cork landowning families are behind plans lodged with An Bord Pleanála for an ambitious build-to-rent scheme in Cork city’s northside suburb of Blackpool.
If the 191 apartment development is given the go-ahead, it will see the conversion of a 230-year-old former distillery building, Hewitt’s Mill, into apartments, as well as the construction of two nine-storey apartment blocks on wasteland directly opposite the Revenue Commissioners’ offices on Assumption Road.
A third nearby parcel of land, at Shandon Villa, Popes Hill Road, is earmarked for a single apartment block, ranging in height from three to six storeys.
If the development goes ahead, it will be known as the Distillery Quarter.
The land involved has long been in the ownership of the Carey and Sheahan families, since it was bought in the 1970s by developers/estate agents Frank Sheahan and the late Joe Carey.
Planning documents linked to the current application show Box Hedge (Commercial) Ltd as landowners and Eichsfeld Ltd as the developers. Directors of Box Hedge include Alma and Edward Carey, children of the late Joe Carey, while Alma Carey and Frank Sheahan are listed as directors of Eichsfeld, in documents filed with the Companies Registration Office.
The plan was originally to build 229 apartments on a composite of four sites close to each other in Blackpool, but this was amended to 191 apartments after one site - a former furniture store at Nos 11-13 Watercourse Road - was removed from the strategic housing development (SHD) application. A separate application in relation to this site is with Cork City Council.
The 0.44ha Hewitt’s Mill site adjoins Seana Mhuileann (Old Mill), a 135-apartment Carey/Sheahan scheme dating to the mid noughties. The site of the Revenue Commissioners’ offices and the Irish Examiner were also previously owned by Carey/Sheahan, before they sold on to developers Ascon, now BAM.
The development now proposed will finish out development on Carey/Sheahan lands in the area, which is characterised by buildings of varied architectural grain, scale and height.
Architects are Wilson Architecture, designers of award-winning Penrose Dock. Peter Heffernan, architect with the firm, said the former Hewitt’s Mill building, part of the original 19th century Watercourse Distillery, will be conserved and restored, with original timber beams and floors and steel trusses retained. The Mill building will house 11 duplexes and 14 apartments and will remain at its existing height level, with an additional building of four to seven storeys incorporated to the rear, with 69 apartments in total on this site.
Balconies will be added to the front of the building to let more light in, Mr Heffernan said.
The building was modified in the past to create offices, but has been vacant for some time.
The “island” site - 0.2ha of “leftover” land after the construction of the N20 and the Revenue Commissioners’ offices - is currently overgrown and fenced off. The proposed development on this site includes two nine-storey apartment blocks containing a total of 99 apartments - 59 one-bed and 40 two-bed - with a rooftop amenity terrace, landscaping and public realm.
A derelict house will be removed as part of the development of a single block of 23 apartments (13 one-bed and 10 two-bed) on the 0.15ha Popes Hill Road site, ranging in height from three to six storeys.
The overall development, covering 0.79ha and with a gross residential floor space of 13,185 sq m (142,000 sq ft), will include communal facilities for residents, such as function rooms, residential lounges, gym facilities, a cinema room, plenty of bicycle spaces, but very limited car parking - just 14 spaces at the Hewitt’s Mill site. The maximum height over ground level across the three sites will be 31.8m (the island site) to parapet level.
The application for the development was lodged with An Bord Pleanála last Friday with a decision due within 16 weeks. It says it’s a build-to-rent scheme, with this status in place for not less than 15 years with no individual units sold or rented separately within that period. It says the proposed development is “intended to augment the housing provision within the northwest and central area of Cork city and support the continued use of warehouse structure by way of residential provision”.
Other significant residential developments in the Blackpool area include the recent commencement by housing agency Clúid of its 112-home scheme, a mix of age-friendly housing, on Thomas Davis Street with a completion date of late 2023/early 2024.
Separately, Bellmount Developments Ltd have made an SHD application also to An Bord Pleanála for permission to build 114 build-to-rent apartments in Blackpool with the site of the intended development listed as Millfield Service Station. The board is due to make a decision on the application by January 17.