CALLS have been made for a temporary amenity space to be created at the old tax office site on Sullivan’s Quay if delays in constructing the proposed hotel and office development are to drag on much longer.
It’s been more than four years since BAM Property Limited was given the green light for the mixed-use development and while there has been a lack of progress at the site, the construction firm said it intends to proceed with the project.
In a statement to The Echo a spokesperson for BAM Ireland said the company is in “active talks with interested parties” in relation to the former tax office site, “for which it has permission to construct a hotel and a significant amount of Grade A office space”.
The spokesperson said the project has been beset by various challenges, but BAM is “confident” the plans will be realised.
“Talks are progressing in the post-Covid environment with the hospitality and commercial real estate industries only now starting to return to normality.
“Due to the ramifications of Brexit, Covid, and the war in Ukraine there is unprecedented construction inflation across the entire sector which is currently delaying commencement of several projects in the industry.
“However, BAM Ireland is confident that this site will be developed, and it is looking forward to doing so as soon as possible,” they said.
Frank O’Connor, who founded Anois design agency alongside Jude Sherry, said the site should be put to use in the interim period before the hotel and office development is constructed.
The pair, who are well-known for campaigning against dereliction, say they have long been calling for the disused site to be transformed into a city park and playground.
Mr O’Connor said “Covid has really reinforced the serious lack of green and play space in the city centre” and that the Sullivan’s Quay site “is ideal for long-term meanwhile use”.
“Transforming, reusing and repurposing it for public use, a city sanctuary for all ages and abilities seamlessly connecting with the River Lee, will make Cork city centre a better place for all of us to live, learn, love, share, create and contribute, while further helping to turn Cork city centre into a destination,” he said.
Mr O’Connor also pointed out that the planning permission for the hotel and office space “may run out before being built”.
“Meanwhile use is a win-win-win. BAM get the PR and the community get a green space and Cork city becomes an even better destination,” he added.
Green Party councillor Dan Boyle said it is “frustrating” to see the site being left idle and also called for it to be opened to the public as a green space in the interim period.
“It’s been inactive for so long and if it’s likely to be inactive for a further period of time, I would prefer to see a pop-up park to compensate for the lack of green space that we have in the area,” he said.
The site, located in the historic South Parish area of the city, was formerly home to the city’s main tax office but had been used for various purposes over the years.
In 2008, the Revenue Commissioners sold the 1980’s block and moved to new premises in Blackpool.
The building was used by arts students from Crawford College of Art and Design and as a gallery space before demolition work finally began in March 2018 with the building flattened by May.
After the demolition works, delays in removing rubble left onsite sparked criticism.
This was later removed but the empty site remains an “eyesore” in heart of the city, Independent councillor Kieran McCarthy said.
Mr McCarthy said it is “disappointing” that the site hasn’t yet been developed as people believed the hotel and office would be constructed “straight away” but years later “there’s nothing happening on the site”.
He noted that the former building was once a vibrant hub for Cork creatives “and that artists in the city were disappointed that the building was taken down”.
“I’d be calling for the developer to come up with a temporary use if they’re going to be sitting on it for many, many more years.
“It’s also such a historic area, you’ve got the old Father Matthew Church that was on the site nearby, also Cove Street has loads of historical links so it’s kind of undermining the whole historical potential of the area as well,” he continued.
Meanwhile, Independent councillor Mick Finn said that, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, the site could have served as a welcome amenity for local residents.
“At a time during Covid when people were craving outside areas, it was a real missed opportunity not to turn this into a temporary park by the banks of the River Lee until such time that the site was developed,” he said.
“There is still an opportunity to open up this site to the public, via an agreement with the city council, until it is developed… Sample Studios operated from the old tax office building with great success, and I wonder now, four or five years on why this wasn’t allowed to continue without a planned future for the site?”.
Mr Finn added that he believes there should be a “use it or lose it” approach when it comes to idle sites.
Responding to the comments for the site to be opened up to the public in the interim as an amenity space before the hotel and office development is built, a spokesperson for BAM Ireland told The Echo that the area is a “construction site and not suitable for public use for health and safety reasons”.