There has been a strong reaction to the news that plans for a major housing development in the heart of Cork city have been scrapped, with the developer now applying to build office space instead.
In February 2020, An Bord Pleanála approved plans for more than 200 build-to-rent apartments to be constructed on the site of Carey Tool Hire and the former Sextant Bar, Albert Quay in a skyscraper apartment block.
The plans were for 93 one-bed apartments, 104 two-bed apartments, and four three-bed apartments in the 25-storey apartment development, which was also to include a public plaza and two rooftop terraces.
But developers JCD Group now believe that the housing development is non-viable financially and instead intend to build a 16-storey office block on the site.
The proposal provides for a large public plaza which will include the refurbishment of the Old Railway Terminus that is to be converted into a bar and restaurant, in addition to a cafe/deli on the ground floor of the new building. The former Ticketing Office is also to be refurbished and retained as offices as part of the scheme.
The offices will be set between the JCD-developed One Albert Quay and O’Callaghan Properties’ Navigation Square.
Explaining the change from residential to office, JCD say they appointed Deloitte to review the cost of the proposed development in comparison to its valuation on completion.
Their report concluded that at current market rents the cost of delivering the project is 15% higher than the anticipated value on completion making the project completely unworkable. The rents required to make this project viable would need to increase by an average of 21% from current levels. This would mean that a two-bed apartment would cost almost €2,800 per month to rent, which the developer believes is not sustainable in the Cork market.
“Since planning permission was granted for the apartment scheme on the site, we have worked with our construction partners and looked at every possible design and financial structure to try to make the project viable," John Cleary said. "The rental levels required to make it work, we believe, are not sustainable in the Cork market.
"We have engaged with many stakeholders including the CIF and the Cork Chamber of Commerce, but the real proof of the issue is that no new private rental apartment schemes have started in Cork since 2008.
Among those critical of the news is Green Party councillor Dan Boyle.
“I never expected these apartments to be built,” he said on Twitter this morning. “I am even more angry that The Sextant building was demolished.”
The historic Sextant Bar was demolished in August 2020, with many on social media joining Mr Boyle in criticising the change of plans and the fact that the well known building has already been knocked to clear the site.