From Square Deal to student deals: €35m Bróga House is nearing completion 

Cork city is set to add more than 1,000 student beds to the system in time for the next academic year
From Square Deal to student deals: €35m Bróga House is nearing completion 

Work in progress on Bróga House student accommodation development, Washington St., Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Key stats at Bróga House development

  • Gross Floor Area: 100,000 sq ft (9300 sq m)
  • Concrete Used: 5,000 m3 
  • Steel reinforcement in concrete: 750,000 kg 
  • Brickwork: 100,000 
  • Render to External Walls: 2,000 m2 
  • Zinc to External Walls: 800 m2 
  • New Roof Finishes:  2,200 m2 
  • Salvage and repair existing slate roof:s 500 m2

IN yet another example of the changing face of student accommodation in Cork city, a new €35m 50-apartment development is set to open on Washington Street in time for the next academic year.

Despite pandemic lockdowns and soaring construction costs, the privately-owned, purpose-built Bróga House will be delivered “on time and on budget” according to Niall O’Connor, construction director at John Paul Construction, the main contractor on the project, at the 0.322 hectare (0.79 acre) site of the former Square Deal furniture outlet. Mr O'Connor said they had avoided exposure to soaring costs through "a lot of forward buying". 

The 100,000 sq ft (9,300 sq m) development, ranging from two-to-six storeys, will incorporate the distinctive, Victorian redbrick façade of what was once the Lee Boot Manufacturing Company factory building, which dates back to the 1890s.

Staff outside the former Lee Boot Manufacturing Company factory building, Cork.
Staff outside the former Lee Boot Manufacturing Company factory building, Cork.

The apartments, mainly eight-bed modular clusters, with individual ensuite double bedrooms with desk and storage, and a shared living/dining/kitchen (LKD) space, average 1400 sq ft (130 sq m) in size and are a far cry from the squalid and cramped student lodgings of yore.

The living/dining/kitchen area in Bróga House. Picture: Denis Minihane.
The living/dining/kitchen area in Bróga House. Picture: Denis Minihane.

A bedroom in Bróga House Picture Denis Minihane.
A bedroom in Bróga House Picture Denis Minihane.

The purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) will also include two internal courtyards and a 4,305 sq ft (400 sq m) roof terrace which students can access, enclosed with a double height glass balustrade. It will have seating and yoga/exercise areas and panoramic views of the city, taking in all the major landmarks, from County Hall, to St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, to Shandon, the Elysian, and right down towards the new office buildings at Penrose Dock and adjoining Horgan’s Quay. 

The development is backed by global real estate investment, development and asset management firm Round Hill Capital (Ireland), who are also the backers (in a joint venture with NBK Capital) of €53m 554-bed Ashlin House on Bandon Road, where Clancy Construction are the main contractor on a project also set to deliver in time for the 2022/2023 academic year.

Mr O’Connor said one of the biggest challenges has been working on a site that is “really confined, right in the city centre”, hemmed in on one side by Woods Street and to the rear, by Lynch’s Street, where it backs on to the Mercy University Hospital outpatients’ department. Lynch’s Street should gain some additional public realm as a result of the development.

Niall O'Connor, construction director, (left) Jordan Gaine, project manager, (centre) and Paul Fewer, project manager, John Paul Construction, at Bróga House. Picture:Denis Minihane.
Niall O'Connor, construction director, (left) Jordan Gaine, project manager, (centre) and Paul Fewer, project manager, John Paul Construction, at Bróga House. Picture:Denis Minihane.

Also tricky, according to Mr O’Connor, was the preservation of the original Victorian redbrick section that forms the centrepiece of the development. Conservation consultants John Cronin & Associates oversaw the salvage of existing roof slates and 10 timber King Trusses supporting the roof, for storage, repair and later re-installation.

Bróga House student accommodation development, Washington St., Cork, with work in progress on reinstating the roof on the protected structure (bottom right). Picture: Denis Minihane.
Bróga House student accommodation development, Washington St., Cork, with work in progress on reinstating the roof on the protected structure (bottom right). Picture: Denis Minihane.

Paul Fewer, senior project manager, said another key challenge was the installation of a substantial temporary steel structure internally, to provide structural support to the old stone walls and brick façade throughout the internal demolition and reconstruction phase.

The Protected Structure was originally constructed as the factory of the ‘Lee Boot Company’, hence the name Bróga House, Mr Fewer said. The company operated from the 1880’s until the early 1980’s.

Staff leaving the Lee Boot Manufacturing Company factory building, 1902.
Staff leaving the Lee Boot Manufacturing Company factory building, 1902.

Architects on the Bróga House project are O’Mahony Pike (as per Bandon Road). Structural engineers are Malachy Walsh and Partners.

The development will be managed by Nido, a UK-based student accommodation provider, who will also manage Ashlin House and who are already in situ at 145-bed Curraheen Point, formerly Gillan House on Farranlea Road.

Ashlin House on Bandon Road is due to open for the 2022/2023 academic year. Picture: Denis Minihane
Ashlin House on Bandon Road is due to open for the 2022/2023 academic year. Picture: Denis Minihane

According to their website, rates will start at c€250 per week, including bills.

The Bróga House development, together with Ashlin House, will add 832 beds to the student accommodation offering in time for the next academic year, with another 255 set to be delivered by the UCC/Sisk Crow’s Nest development in Victoria Cross, bringing the overall total to 1,087.

Crow's Nest UCC student accommodation is due to open for the 2022/2023 academic year. Picture: Denis Minihane
Crow's Nest UCC student accommodation is due to open for the 2022/2023 academic year. Picture: Denis Minihane

Rseearch compiled by EY on behalf of Dublin City Council in 2019 found 79% of residents in PBSAs were international students. Cork has a fulltime student population of c26,000.

Other PBSAs in the pipeline include a North Main Street project by Bmor Developments who are due to deliver 280 beds for the 2023/2024 academic year, while Bellmount Developments have planning permission for a a c€30m 243-bed student accommodation complex at the former Kelleher's Auto Centre in Victoria Cross.

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