Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Horgan's Quay - when?

Well it's a question that's been on people's lips for nearly 8 years - when? Ever since Manor Park
Homebuilders (headed up by Corkman Michael O'Driscoll) purchased development rights to the 17-acre Horgan's Quay site back in 1998, the anticipation has been high regarding the future of this vital landbank. O'Mahony Pike Architects were appointed as the winning design team jointly by Manor Park and Treasury Holdings for the project following their competitive submission on proposals for the site. Anyone who has followed associated posts regarding the site will be aware of its ups and downs, but with the final draft of the North Docklands Area Plan realised (amendments and all) and commitments made by the Port of Cork to relocate primary activities to its extensive and far more practical land holdings in Ringaskiddy...the question is when? As it stands, Port of Cork activity along the northern docklands quays is increasingly less signifcant versus harbour activities at Tivoli and even the South Docklands - this is recognised. By the time any application goes through planning, it is likely that most north docklands activity will have seized - and subject to agreement, this will allow Phase 1 construction proceed. By the time construction has be complete on this phase, South Docklands activity will hopefully have reduced enough to allow provisions such as the Horgan's Quay Marina see installation. A number of issues arise here - and it will require full commitment by Cork City Council, Cork Couth Council, the Port of Cork and the Government - that is, seeing through an application by CorkCoCo for new port facilities at Ringaskiddy, the commencement of work on the upgraded N28 as far as Ringaskiddy (to facilitate freight transport) and a commitment to providing a rail capacity as far as Ringaskiddy (via Carrigaline perhaps) to support freight and passenger traffic flows: such provisions will be vital to support a facility (the Port of Cork) that contributes immeasurably to the economic well-being of not least the south-west region, but broader Irish economy.

Following NDAP amendments, a stakeholders forum has been established regarding the North Docklands - this forum, regulated by the CCC Docklands Office (now under the hand of Pat Ledwidge), will co-ordinate discussions between parties with a vested interest in the North Docklands Area (including developers, CIE, Port of Cork, CCC, residents and local business). In realising a successful planning application for Horgan's Quay, this forum will require some utilisation - especially between Manor Park/CIE and the Port of Cork.

There are other sticking points however, including the restrictive retail cap implied by the NDAP following amended wording. Both Manor Park & CIE are anxious to produce a significant element of such an element. CCC are reluctant - there are arguments for and against such a provision, both with some exceptionally valid points, however this will be discussed at a later stage. Building heights are another issue - in my personal view, a limit on heights should perhaps be adhered to in the interests of protecting Northern Ridge perspectives (vital to the character of Cork and its topography), however this does not exclude the option of taller landmark buildings (provided strong and characteristic design standards) and designated, well-spaced locations.

And what of the event centre that we hear so much about? Indeed such a centre would be ideal at a location like Horgan's Quay - however, it practicality seems to be smoked by idealistic ambitions (not that we should not strive for such, but there comes a point of realistic recogition). Manor Park have proposed an 'opera house' style venue of between 1,000 and 2,000 seats - clearly this is significantly below the ideal/required and would conflict with the established venues at Cork Opera House and the Everyman Palace. What is required is a significant capacity centre of between 6,000 and 10,000 seating/standing places - the fact is, Manor Park aren't really interested in building such a centre - why not hand the area over to increased public space? Something lacking in the north docklands area. The Munster Agricultural Showgrounds sticks out as a promising location given issues of traffic management (which should be aided with easy linkage to Kent Station if CCC get the Water Street Bridge project rolling), space and catalystic renegeration in this docklands quarter. Currently 3 teams are committed to providing options on such a centre at this Showgrounds location. Perhaps their public confirmation of such plans will aid the realisation process at Horgan's Quay somewhat. It would work well for both parties, the event centre developer and Manor Park.

Richard Collins of O'Mahony Pike Architects is involved in the Horgan's Quay project; John Gannon is handling the role of Planning Consultant with Tom Phillips & Associates. The word is that, all going well, an application should well see the light this year (2006) for Horgan's Quay - but with so many variables in operation, some doubt could remain.


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