450-job boost for Cork’s business boulevard with new office block

March 23, 2017

A €25 million, 450-job new South Mall office block for foreign direct investment (FDI) and IT start-up companies will be seen as a highly significant vote of confidence in Cork city centre’s traditional office and commercial heartland.

Behind the move to deliver a 50,000 sq ft office block to Gold LEED standards at and behind 85/86 South Mall, are John Cleary Developments, with architects Henry J Lyons for the major impact site, building over five levels on a 0.34 acre site which has just completed site assembly.

It’s expected to add considerably to the footfall and employment profile of the South Mall’s eastern end, and its anticipated impact has been welcomed by Cork Chamber of Commerce and by the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Simon Coveney, as a planning application for the project is lodged this week.

The development would involve some demolition onto South Mall, at nos 85/86 which will become the building’s main entrance point, while the bulk of the site is behind and largely vacant, with frontages to Phoenix Street, Crane Lane and Smith Street, which links the South Mall to Oliver Plunkett Street.

While modest sized at 50,000 sq ft (JCD’s One Albert Quay project was 170,000 sq ft), it’s probably the most significant new build proposed for the South Mall in several decades.

Planning exists on a portion for offices; now having acquired that site, nos 85/86 South Mall and the former Bank of Ireland cash vaults on 0.14 acre on Smith Street for more street frontage (marketed last year at €600,000 via Savills) the site assembly has come together.

Subject to getting what they describe as “a viable planning permission,” JCD says it would commence construction immediately, with 125 construction jobs, work to a completion date of late Summer 2018 to accommodate 450 workers.

The same JCD/Henry J Lyons development/design pairing team also delivered the now sold-on €58m One Albert Quay office project, and JCD are close to being fully-let at the office element of the €50m Capitol retail and office scheme, which comes on top of a 1.3 million sq ft Cork JCD development pipeline over 20 years.

Now, having built in the suburbs, and on Cork’s quays, the fact JCD has trained its eyes on building afresh right on the South Mall can be seen as highly significant for the Mall’s future.

Last year, JCD bought the former Norwich Union House for c €4m, and has been active upgrading it and using it to land new FDI companies to Cork while future buildings are prepared for them.

Across the Mall, at No 12, opposite the Imperial Hotel, the Republic of Work concept of short-lease offices for start-ups and expanding tech/FDI and financial services firms is another confidence signifier for the Mall, while two blocks away from No 85/86, hotel group Dalata is investing €20m in completing a long-stalled hotel site on South Mall and Parnell Place.

The proposed new five-storey building is expected to play a role in accommodating technology companies and possible Brexit relocations, and occupiers in the adjacent JCD 89/90 South Mall building include high-growth US technology companies such as Cylance and Eventbrite.

“Historically, this type of occupier has tended to gravitate towards larger cities like Dublin, London, and Amsterdam when looking to establish an initial footprint in Europe.

“However, it is understood that the South Mall and Cork’s city centre has proven to be extremely popular with these early-stage tech companies, and that the new building will be attractive as a location for this type of foreign direct investment,” said a JCD spokesperson.

Mr Coveney described the proposal as “a very positive new development in the city centre, providing new office accommodation to enable Cork to compete on both a national and international level for foreign direct investment. It will also contribute to the vibrancy of the South Mall.”

Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy commented there is a need for projects such as this to attract FDI “It is most welcome to see new high-quality office buildings being developed in Cork’s historic business district. Significant market opportunities currently exist for technology and services organisations seeking locations in Europe with the best of skills, access and a supportive business environment.

“To meet the needs of such globally-oriented businesses, we need to ensure ongoing delivery of the necessary business infrastructure which includes office infrastructure of this nature,” added the Chamber CEO.

It follows on the heels of the new, 15,500 sq ft flexible working space, Republic of Work, at 12 South Mall, as well as the arrival of NGiNX, Zazzle and Facebook’s acquisition of Cork-based start up InfiniLED.

The Examiner 23rd March 2017
Tommy Barker