Cork's Nano Nagle Place project is about to bloom

Cork's Nano Nagle Place project is about to bloom
Nano Nagle's tomb in the graveyard area at Nano Nagle Place off Douglas Street, which has been transformed into a heritage centre. Picture: Denis Minihane.

MORE than €20 million has been invested in the redevelopment of Nano Nagle Place, transforming the 18th Century site into a state-of-the-art educational and heritage facility.

Set to open this June, the Douglas Street centre is set to serve as a major boost to the city's tourism and educational offerings, with operators hoping to inject new life into the entire south parish.

Potential links with tourism providers and other sites in the city may see as many as 20,000 tourists pass through the doors of the convent in the coming years, with the site also set to be a new home to a number of charities.

Reflective gardens, cafes and restaurants are also set to be opened at the 3.5-acre development, which also includes a major new educational development on a previously-unused plot of land at its western apex.

Shane Clarke, CEO of Nano Nagle Place, said the entire development will bring a new lease of life to Douglas Street and the south parish.

"It is an amazing transformation of a really important series of buildings in the heart of Cork. They stretch from the late eighteenth century to the 21st century, with some new buildings still being constructed."

€10 million has been spent on rebuilding the convent and school buildings, with this phase of work now complete.

A further €11 million is being spent on the second phase of works - the adjacent educational facility.

Hopes are high that it will be completed by the Autumn. Following a quick fit out, the new tenants should be ready to move in by the start of next year, according to Mr Clarke.

While he was unable to confirm who the tenants would be, he said that the full reveal should happen sooner rather than later.

Additional educational space will open up in the rest of the buildings when building site offices are vacated, providing a range of opportunities for city-based groups.

The entire project was funded by the Presentation Sisters, with no tax payer money spent.

It was born out of a wish to create a legacy project that marked the history and ideals of the Presentation Order.

The old primary school and the new educational campus under construction at Nano Nagle Place. Picture: Denis Minihane.
The old primary school and the new educational campus under construction at Nano Nagle Place. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Nano Nagle, born into a wealthy Catholic family near Mallow in 1718, founded the order in Cork in 1775.

She devoted her life to helping the poor, with more than 400 children being taught in her network of schools across seven city parishes by the time she died in 1784.

Mr Clarke said that these ideals of education and social justice are at the heart of the development.

"Primarily, what we are about is change," he said.

"Changing the language around Cork, asking how we can do community education, volunteering.

"We want do be a centre of debate - what is a just Cork, or a green Cork?

"We are talking about social justice, education and bringing people together."

In addition to its educational core, Nano Nagle Place will host a number of charities.

A former ministry building has been converted, with the Lantern Project, Cork Migrant Services and iScoil already agreed to occupy space.

Discussions are ongoing with Foróige and a number of other groups.

"We have a large volume of space and we are going to invite charities to make use of that, both in terms of office space and running services," Mr Clarke said.

"Essentially, we are forming a hot house of charities in here."

Dr Danielle O'Donovan, programme manager for Nano Nagle Centre, joined the project in February.

Currently, her focus is to ensure that the heritage elements are ready for the public for the projected June opening.

The team has put together an interactive and engrossing story of Nano Nagle, the Presentation Sisters and the wider Cork story at the time.

"The exhibition really puts you into the picture of eighteenth century Cork," Dr O'Donovan said.

"It really sets the scene and then it explores the foundation of the order. There are some really special videos."

The entrance to the heritage centre in Nano Nagle Place off Douglas Street. Picture: Denis Minihane.
The entrance to the heritage centre in Nano Nagle Place off Douglas Street. Picture: Denis Minihane.

The tour has been catered for a wide audience, including maps, videos and information, with plans for wider city tours and child-friendly activities currently in development too.

Significant work has also gone into developing a state-of-the-art archive.

It is set to play host to the entire records of the Presentation Sisters order, with space for expansion.

Elsewhere on the 3.5-acre site, major work has gone into preserving and upgrading the tomb of Nano Nagle and the graveyard of the Presentation Sisters, while landscaping works have revamped a one-acre garden at the heart of the development.

This space will be open to the public, answering a demand for green space in the city centre.

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