Hopes for progress on Butter Exchange development

Hopes for progress on Butter Exchange development
The old Butter Exchange building, Shandon.Picture: Denis Scannell

TENTATIVE discussions have taken place between Cork City Council and Fáilte Ireland about the prospect of reopening one of the city's most iconic buildings: the butter exchange.

However, it is understood that concrete plans for the site may still be some time away due to the complexity of redeveloping and reopening the historic building.

Large parts of the historic butter exchange have been idle for some time, with a number of plans proposed over the years by local businesses and state agencies to bring the historic site back to use.

The economic downturn put the brakes on these, with the building suffering a partial roof collapse in May 2016, prompting locals to call for immediate works to take place.

There have been estimates of 'six-figure sums' to re-roof and re-purpose parts of the building.

Independent councillor and historian Kieran McCarthy leads frequent walking tours in the area and said the delays are frustrating, especially in the context of the hard work done in the area by the likes of the Shandon Area Renewal Association, the tidy towns groups and the organisers of the Shandon Street Festival, as well as the work done by the Firkin Crane.

Cork City Council also recently confirmed its intention to upgrade the public realm in the wider Shandon area, with work beginning later this year.

Mr McCarthy said, "The building is an iconic piece of Irish architecture, which is often overlooked. Its story is connected, through butter, to the four corners of the known world in its day."

The area is included on the itineraries of many tour groups, who visit Shandon bells and the wider area. The appetite is there to reopen the building, Mr McCarthy added.

"The array of ideas by local community activists in Shandon is striking," he said.

"They always renew my continued interest in the quarter and I would strongly argue that City Hall needs to listen more to their ideas. The Council’s ideas on developing a Diaspora Centre or a technology hub have fallen through in recent years."

The Independent councillor called for the city to consider introducing a full-time summer coordinator to capitalise on the work of local organisers in the area.

He continued, "More and more I am being pulled to the idea that perhaps the best function for the old exchange building is to develop community facilities in there. At least that would bring locals into the area and serve as a platform for tourists to learn about community activities and the strong sense of place, which exists in the area.

"The more the building remains undeveloped, the more structural problems the site will develop. The clock is ticking on the old Butter Exchange Building."

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