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limit the sky

'If you must build something there, it has to be world class' - the saga of the €250 million Cork city skyscraper

Should the mooted 40-storey building be constructed on Cork’s docklands it would become Ireland’s tallest structure.

port Port of Cork Port of Cork

LOCAL OPPOSITION TO a proposed 40-storey skyscraper at Cork Port has gathered momentum in recent weeks.

The development, the brainchild of US-based, Kerry-born developers Kevin and Donal O’Sullivan, has been on the cards since April 2017, when the Port of Cork sold them a site at the double estuary of the River Lee for in the region of €5 million (the original guide price for the land when it came to market in 2016 was €7 million).

Assuming the projected construction (by the brothers’ Irish company, Tower Development Properties) actually takes place, it would stand as Ireland’s tallest building. The proposed development is expected to cost something approaching €250 million, and is thought to comprise both office and apartment space, and a hotel.

However, in recent days a petition by artist John Adams calling for the scrapping of the development has garnered media attention (and about 1,400 online signatures).

Adams says that the proposed skyscraper will ‘cover up and destroy’ the listed buildings on site at the Port of Cork.

The Green Party’s Oliver Moran meanwhile says that if a building does end up being constructed, the design of it should be tendered out to international competition in order to ensure the finished product is ‘world class’.

tower Artist's rendition of the proposed tower Tower Development Properties Tower Development Properties

‘World class’

“We have to give the developers the benefit of the doubt,” he told “We have to assume they want what’s best for Cork. I’d still be of the opinion that location is not suitable for a skyscraper.”

Cork does need to look at going high, but not there.
If it does happen, the building has to be iconic, not the generic construction they’ve hinted at in the artist’s drawings. You could import a building like that from anywhere. We would challenge them to hold an international design competition.

Kevin O’Sullivan, whose previous construction output includes parts of New York’s Ground Zero towers and 9/11 memorial, is continuing to wax lyrical about the project despite the opposition coming from the locality.

“It was the presence of the historic Custom House and the wonderful bonded warehouses that attracted me to the site in the first place,” he said.

We are putting in a lot of time and painstaking work on planning the conservation programme (of the area).
The proper restoration of these buildings will cost tens of millions of euro. It’s easier to construct new buildings. The hard work here will be in preserving what is already there.

“We will fully embrace the maritime and commercial history of the site and restore the existing buildings to their former glory, making it a worthy visitor attraction in the heart of Cork City,” he added.

All that aside, Moran hasn’t given up entirely on planning for the development being refused by Cork City Council.

aerial The proposed construction site Cushman and Wakefield Cushman and Wakefield


“I think it’s kind of 50-50,” he said. “The reason I say this is because I think it would be better not to go ahead.”

Once a skyscraper goes up it doesn’t come down again. I’m worried about the permanency of this.

Cork City Council is, naturally, under no obligation to grant any planning application. “It would be very easy to zone the land as open space amenity, and keep it for the public,” says Moran.

But I would imagine no planning application will be lodged until there’s some clarity on the city’s own redevelopment plans for the Docklands, so the new project can be incorporated into those ideas.
But that dock… it’s the first thing that a visitor to the city sees. Whatever goes there has to be iconic.

O’Sullivan meanwhile is firm that the new structure will be a benefit to the Leeside community.

“It is our aim to develop a genuine community and civic amenity. It goes without saying that we will work closely with the city council on all aspects of the development,” he said.

“I would ask people not to pre-judge the issues but wait to see the comprehensive planning and conservation proposal we will lodge with Cork City Council later this year.”

It will be worth waiting for.

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