'Positive step forward' for Cork's long-awaited events centre as construction set to begin this year

The news was confirmed yesterday, along with the announcement of an additional €7m in State funding for the 6,000-seat event centre.
'Positive step forward' for Cork's long-awaited events centre as construction set to begin this year

Construction on Cork's long-awaited events centre is set to begin later this year, with an additional €7m in State funding announced for the project. Picture: Larry Cummins.

Construction on Cork's long-awaited events centre is set to begin later this year in what has been hailed as a “positive step forward” for a project that is hoped will bring “incalculable benefit to the city”.

The news was confirmed yesterday, along with the announcement of an additional €7m in State funding for the 6,000-seat events centre.

Government was yesterday updated on plans for the project on the site of the former Beamish & Crawford brewery, as well as significant regeneration of the entire Grand Parade Quarter.

In a statement yesterday afternoon, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he welcomed the progress on the project, with funding arrangements now completed by Cork City Council and construction set to start this year.

“The progress made by Cork City Council and all involved on this flagship project is very welcome," the Taoiseach said, commenting after the Cabinet meeting.

“This project is potentially of major benefit to the city and entire region, complemented by the additional development of the Grand Parade Quarter through €46m funding under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund.

“The Grand Parade and entire medieval quarter is set for a significant renaissance and regeneration, creating a compelling and vibrant cultural heart of the city, and a catalyst for further economic growth.

“Once completed, the Cork Events Centre and Grand Parade Quarter will be a public space that the entire city and country can be proud of.” 

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath said that, “after many false dawns, it does seem that real progress is now being made on the delivery of this vital project for Cork city, county and the whole region”.

“It is encouraging that the consortium of BAM and Live Nation are now spending money on the detailed design phase and this is expected to conclude in the coming months.

“While the exchequer commitment for this project is very significant, the benefits that a modern, state of the art events centre will bring to the city are immense.

“Taken alongside the €46m the Government has provided for the Grand Parade Quarter project, there is now an exciting plan for the transformation of this part of our city.

“I commend the work of Cork City Council and the sustained commitment of their leadership team and body of elected members for sticking with this project.

“I look forward to working closely with them and the other key stakeholders to get this project delivered as quickly as possible.” 

It’s understood that construction on the events centre project is set to commence in Q4 of this year, with expected completion by the end of 2024.

Speaking to The Echo, the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Colm Kelleher described the progress update as “very welcome news”.

He said that the council has been working very closely with central Government and the other key parties involved in the project, the consortium of BAM and Live Nation.

Mr Kelleher acknowledged that there have been many “false dawns” on the project and said that, in relation to the turning of the sod in 2016, “it was severely premature”.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” he continued. 

“In relation to it being delivered and completed by the end of 2024, I would be optimistic that that would be the case.” Independent Cork city councillor Mick Finn said the events centre will bring “incalculable benefit to the city” once delivered.

“This is another positive step forward for a multi-functioning event centre befitting the status of Cork as capital of the southern region and underpins the perseverance of all parties,” he said.

“We have been chasing this project since I joined the council in 2009 and there have been many false dawns; I have tried to keep it alive on the council agenda ever since and received positive news prior to Christmas that the detailed design process had started.

“The new timelines with a construction date at the end of 2022 appear to tally with that progress report so it does seem we are on the home straight of the first lap,” he continued.

Fine Gael councillor Des Cahill said the events centre will be “a great boost for the city”.

“It’s frustrating that it’s taken as long as it has but that’s now water under the bridge and I think fair dues to the council and the Government and everyone else involved for sticking at it,” he continued.

Mr Cahill said he hopes progress on the project will also “spur on” other developments in the city, including development at the site of the now-demolished tax office on Sullivan’s Quay.

This was echoed by John O'Connor, owner of An Spailpín Fánach on South Main Street.

He described the progress update as “absolutely brilliant news”.

“It’s not before time and it can’t happen soon enough!” 

Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy said the news of the progress on the project and the additional State funding “signals ongoing Government commitment to the project”.

“It's very positive that the detailed design is underway by BAM/Live Nation and is set to be complete by June which will hopefully lead to the long-awaited construction phase of the project starting before year end,” he continued.

Sinn Féin TD for Cork South-Central Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said he “sincerely hopes” construction begins this year.

“I think many people in Cork have an attitude that they will believe it when they see it and given everything that has gone on that is understandable.

“But ultimately, Government and opposition we all want the same thing, and that is to see the event centre delivered because it has so much potential, it can be a landmark, and can really regenerate South Main Street, and the Barrack Street, South Parish area, and can bring a great deal to the city,” he continued.

Mr Ó Laoghaire said he will be “keeping a close eye” on the project and “keeping pressure on to ensure delivery”.

In relation to the additional €7m in State funding, the Government has said this is being provided “to meet the cost of construction delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

However, Independent Cork city councillor Ken O’Flynn said he believes this additional spend could have been avoided.

He said delays on the project, even before Covid has “cost the taxpayer dearly”.

“And while I accept that this could be a catalyst for the entire area, I do believe it could have been brought in way under price and possibly a much, much better location. I have always believed it should have been at a different location,” he continued.

“It is welcome news,” he said of the progress update, “but it’s coming at a very high price”.

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