THERE are both positives and negatives in plans that have been submitted for a 279-bed student accommodation building on a brownfields site in the heart of the historic spine of Cork city, it has been claimed.
Bmor Developments Ltd are seeking permission for 49 apartments, as well as two retail units and a cafe/restaurant at 92-96 North Main Street, which incorporates the old Munster Furniture site.
It will see the demolition of the existing structures at 92, formerly Molloy’s Footwear store, and 95, to make way for the construction of the four to seven storey development.
Proposed in this development are eleven one-bed studio apartments, one three-bedroom apartment, two four-bedroom apartments, three five-bedroom apartments, six six-bedroom apartments, two seven bedroom apartments and 24 eight-bed apartments.
A gym, library and cinema are also included in the plans, along with linked courtyard gardens at ground floor level and rooftop terraces at first, fourth, fifth and sixth floor levels.
Another key feature of the development will be the restoration of Coleman’s Lane, which will link North Main Street to Grattan Street. Ensuring that it is safe, overlooked and properly lit is key, while also “creating better movement and permeability in the area”.
At pre-application consultation phase, An Bord Pleanála raised a number of issues with the proposals as they were, in particular the height of the development, which have now been addressed by Bmor.
The scheme has been reduced by one storey from eight to seven, while another part of the building has reduced from seven to six storeys.
The site itself has been vacant and derelict for over a decade since a fire destroyed the building, and it was demolished in 2008.
An Bord Pleanála is due to rule on whether the development can proceed by November 4.
Independent Councillor Paudie Dineen toldhe also saw positives and negatives in the proposal.
“With regards to the dereliction on North Main Street, you’d have to welcome the development. Any investment and development that would clean up the street in some way and bring new life into it would be most welcome,” he said.
“I just hope the developers would take on the concerns of local residents.
“Because they are bypassing the City Council and going directly to An Bord Pleanála for permission, (it’s important) that any concerns councillors or residents have would not be dismissed or not listened to,” he added.
Fianna Fáil Councillor Seán Martin again highlighted the issues with An Bord Pleanála’s fast-track development process which leaves Cork City Council excluded from the process.
He pointed towards the development touted for The Lough, which he believes is “too dense”, but said that developers can go back to An Bord Pleanála and “get additional planning again, on top of what they already had”.
Councillor Martin said that he would have liked to see some social housing included in the proposed development, and for it not to just be for students.
“Is student accommodation the answer to developing the inner city exclusively? I don’t think so. I just think we need a better mix than that.
“But, that site has been vacant for 15 years, so it’s a good news story on one level.” Meanwhile, Patrick Leader, from Leaders Menswear on North Main Street, welcomed the reduction in the proposed height of the development, as he said it was “an area of concern” for locals.
“The primary concerns for the North Main Street retailers was that the ground floor be retail or a gymnasium. The main concern for the residents was anti-social behaviour from students,” he said.
He went on to say that the work ongoing on the other end of the street on derelict buildings was to be welcomed.
Contractors are on site stabilizing the interior of the building and will then be able to remove hoarding at the front of the building, which is currently blocking pedestrian access on a section of the footpath.
“It’s very positive. That’s what we need - to have a continuous flow at this side of the street, and also it will be much more visually attractive when the hoarding is taken away,” Mr Leader said.