Department considers fund increase for events centre

Department considers fund increase for events centre

Two tower cranes visible on the events centre  site on South Main Street, where developers BAM are building student accommodation, viewed from Lower Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork. However, works have yet to start on the events centre element of the project. Pic; Larry Cummins

THE Department of Public Expenditure is still considering an application for increased State funding for the Cork events centre project.

A parliamentary response from the department, issued to Cork East TD Seán Sherlock, confirmed that the process is still ongoing, with a revised cost-benefit analysis currently undergoing ‘technical review’ at the department.

Some €20 million in State funding has already been allocated for the project for which developers BAM won a tender process in 2014.

However, the developer sought an additional €18 million in funding in 2017 after a complete redesign was sought by Live Nation, who has signed on to operate the 6,000-capacity venue.

Live Nation is keen to ensure that the events centre will be capable of hosting a range of events, including theatre and conferences, as well as live music, to ensure that it remains commercially viable after development is complete.

After a legal assessment, City Hall submitted a request for a further €10 million on behalf of the developer. Legal advice given to the local authority at the time indicated that seeking any further increases could potentially give grounds to re-triggering the tendering process.

All parties have remained committed to the project to date, though frustration has been growing locally since the turning of the sod by then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny on the South Main Street site in February 2016.

Works have begun on student apartments on the site, but the events centre remains in limbo.

Deputy Sherlock sought an update from the Department of Public Expenditure regarding the funding request, which was submitted almost 12 months ago by City Hall.

The response stated: “The Minister wishes to advise the Deputy that his Department received a revised cost-benefit analysis for the project at the end of June. “The report is currently under technical review in the Irish Government Economic & Evaluation Service (IGEES) Unit in the Department.”

Speaking to the Evening Echo, Deputy Sherlock said that the progress is welcome but that the lack of clarity around the process has severely damaged public confidence in the development. He said, “At the very least the issue is now with the Department of Public Expenditure who are the sanctioning body. We still do not have sight of the full ask. We still do not have clarity on why this project is steeped in secrecy. Transparent action is needed now to restore public confidence in this project.”

The matter was also raised during meetings held this week in City Hall between the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Mick Finn and the Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Mr Coveney assured the Lord Mayor that work is ongoing behind the scenes in a bid to get the project over the line.

Mr Finn said, “I got some indication of the complexity of issues that are involved and that have delayed the process to now but I remain confident — though this has been tested over the last number of years — that we are edging closer to the outcome we all want for Cork and the region, including the Tánaiste and all participating parties.”

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