The Chief Executive of Cork City Council has said that the current Covid-19 pandemic has created conditions for the speedier development of the city centre.
Speaking at Cork Chamber of Commerce’s online breakfast briefing on Tuesday morning, Ann Doherty said that the key to getting people back into the city centre after the first lockdown was creating space, allowing for extra room for people to move around and for businesses to trade safely.
Ms Doherty said that the Cork City Development Plan allowed for the collective good sense about what people want from the city, including developments in the areas of public transport, pedestrianisation and having a vibrant city centre.
As a response to Covid-19, the city centre was looked at on a street by street basis, which she said was important as “what works in one place doesn’t work in another”.
She said that decisions were made in collaboration with businesses and people living in the area in what she described as a legacy that should be held onto.
“That's how you effect change, there has to be, to call it bluntly, skin in the game for everybody, it's not being imposed, it's about coming together,” she said.
She said, however, that the effects of Covid-19 have seen an impact on the development of the Events Centre.
While the Events Centre is set to progress, with most recent engagements reaffirming the commitment of the consortium of Live Nation and BAM, that Live Nation have “no global visibility and a pathway to the live entertainment industry coming back in place”.
She said that the €50 million grant from central government for the Event Centre was “an important statement in terms of the confidence and support for Cork” but that Live Nation, whose business is live entertainment, “went from 100% to 0% in terms of trade”.
“They are very committed to the project and have reaffirmed their commitment last month but the issue for them is that they have no global visibility and a pathway to the live entertainment industry coming back in place.
“So in terms of signing up to the funding agreement at the moment, they were working through the details of it but it will be early next year, I believe, before they can see a pathway to that live entertainment business in terms of it functioning again. I do think it will come back because innovation and creativity will happen and obviously the hope that a vaccine changes that dramatically,” she said.
Speaking about the development of the docklands, Ms Doherty said she believes that the city has an “amazingly strong urge of application” and that the timing is right to see funding secured in order for the development to come to pass.
“Our local funding requirements are now embedded in national funding priorities, be it from the Cork Metropolitan Area Draft Transport Strategy 2040 (SMATS) and now the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF).”
She said that Cork city and the Land Development Agency have made a commitment to work together in bringing the various parts of the docklands together in one complex development between the public and private sectors.
“The Land Development Agency is a national agency so the more national voices that the first words out of their mouth is Cork cannot be a bad thing.
“In relation to our urge of application, if we were to be successful, we would see that there would be probably about a €5.1 billion rate of return in private sector investment for the public sector investment that could go in, it’s multiples of hundreds of thousands that our ask is but I do believe that the timing is right this time,” she said.