The year is 2001 and the Cork Docklands Development Strategy sets out a new vision for the 400 acre land bank adjacent to our city. Some development happened in 2005 on Lapps Quay and then the recession hit. Some more development happened in 2016 with the opening of the impressive One Albert Quay. Other projects have followed since with Navigation Square which when completed will have up to 350,000 sq ft of space available. Cork Docklands area is expected to be one of the major beneficiaries of the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 long-term national spatial strategy. The plan foresees the population of the city trebling from its current level of 120,000 people to up to 360,000 by 2040 which should get it to a scale that it can compete internationally for more major FDI projects. Some of that population growth will be due to the expansion of the city boundaries into surrounding area and it is envisaged that as much as 35pc of expansion will take place in existing built-up areas and developers will be encouraged to focus on brownfield opportunities in the harbour areas that are closest to the city centre. On the north side of the quays, Horgan’s Quay will include a 136-bedroom hotel, 200 apartments and 400,000 sq ft of offices. JCD has been shaping a new focus for South Mall which is nearing completion and the company also has started Penrose Wharf on the north quays as well as swooping in recent weeks on the Carey Tool Hire site. Other sites have changed hands and others have been mentioned for development. The Port of Cork land at Custom House Quay that has been acquired by the Kerry born O’ Sullivan brothers is earmarked for high rise and other development as are two other sites that they own in the immediate vicinity. However, we must ask some questions right now as to where things are at –
* Is the pace of development fast enough?
* Is the overall strategy for Cork Docklands in place, and if it is, what is it and who knows about it?
* Has the government committed to financial assistance for the 2040 plan and if so, how much is committed?
* Have engineers raised serious questions about an inability to be able to address flooding in the area because of its low lying position?
* With so many land owners and stake holders involved, why hasn’t a round table forum been established?
* Where is the Cork Docklands Development Plan that was spoken about to the media in December 2017 as being ready for publishing in Q2 of 2018?
Without doubt, Cork Docklands has the potential to be the game changer for Cork City, just like Dublin Docklands has been for Dublin City. With some done, more being done and a huge amount left to do, we must ensure that we don’t arrive at 2040 and find ourselves having delivered 10% of a strategy instead of close to 100% of it…because if we do, the citizens and the voters will not be as forgiving as they were when we missed the boat with Cork Docklands last time around…