It is, perhaps, difficult to envisage the current Tivoli Industrial Estate for what it once was — mudflats — to what it became today through ‘man-made land’ reclaimed from the River Lee.
The land reclamation was, at times, criticised for contributing to the flooding threat to the city by compressing the water area. I remember reporting those debates.
That reclamation, over time, created the essential import/export conduit for Cork and the southern hinterland as shipping moved from bulk commodities to containers.
Tivoli became the major focus of Cork Port as concentration on shipping operations moved from the city centre quays, with the area also handling roll-on roll-off motor imports.
Now the time has come when focus moves further downriver to Ringaskiddy in the lower harbour. When that it is completed, 153 acres of land will be available for redevelopment at Tivoli.
“Tivoli will be one of the most exciting projects in the future for the company and for the City of Cork,” according to Port of Cork chairman, John Mullins. It has offered a contract for the design and planning of this huge project which is drawing national and overseas interest. There are big profits to be made through involvement.
This will change the face of Cork for ever. Strong concentration on preserving the maritime culture, history, and tradition of shipping with the city should be among the priorities.
Dublin Port has done this, reaching out to the general public to emphasise the importance of shipping with the capital city on the River Liffey.
It has the benefit of shipping operations still being in view of the citizenry while, in Cork this is being removed from wider public view at Ringaskiddy.
All the more important then, to maintain Cork’s public marine connection which has, throughout history, been the lifeblood of the city.
There had been hopes that the Port of Cork offices might have been preserved in public ownership to create a top-level maritime museum highlighting Cork City’s maritime history, but this did not happen.
The demolition of the Sextant Bar across the river from the Port offices removed a 143-year-old part of the city’s maritime connections which went back to 1877.
Cork has to evolve, but should there not be wider public discussion about retaining maritime heritage?
“This was one of several buildings which added to the character of the city.
“As development moves into the Docklands, we don’t want to see other buildings of character like it disappear,” historian and city councillor, Kieran McCarthy, said at the time of the Sexant demolition.
“We need to have a bigger conversation about the city’s Docklands, about retaining heritage.”
So what will be developed at Tivoli and what will be the effects on the upper harbour when the Port of Cork concentrates activities at Ringaskiddy and the Belvelly facility?
In July of 2017 the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, engaged by the Port of Cork, published a design for Tivoli’s redevelopment.
It highlighted maritime focus such as “retaining the existing cranes as part of a promenade events space along with a city beach, as thousands of new homes are provided in the broader context of Cork as a river city.
“Tivoli can become a leisure destination for Cork people through the creation of a range of waterside activities. Its superb riverside setting should be the focus with “marine-related uses along the riverfront.”
Even a houseboat community was suggested by the RIAI.
Among environmental issues will be the nearby Glashaboy River where five fish species were recorded at seven sites surveyed in 2018.
Brown trout was the most abundant species and salmon were recorded at four of the sites.
The RIAI noted that “most of the Tivoli site cannot be developed pending the relocation of two Seveso sites. This will involve the support of the City and County Councils in enabling Tivoli to reach its full development.”
Last year, the Port of Cork appointed Swedish firm Tyréns and Reddy Architects to prepare options for how the site can be reimagined.
It will be many years before Tivoli is redeveloped. When accomplished it will, hopefully, be with strong maritime emphasis.