Cork forges ahead but faces na­tional de­vel­op­ment is­sues

Irish Independent - Business Week - - APPOINTMENTS -

Iwas in Cork last week and took the op­por­tu­nity to have a good look around, and meet some old con­tacts. It’s in­ter­est­ing to note that the city is fol­low­ing the re­cov­ery pat­tern seen in Dublin, but with one or two twists – no­tably Cork is a ben­e­fi­ciary of the high ac­com­mo­da­tion and staff costs seen in Dublin.

Peter O’Flynn, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Cush­man & Wake­field, told me that Cork is see­ing a num­ber of pro­fes­sional firms dou­bling and tre­bling in size, as they can han­dle more in­ter­na­tional work from the lo­ca­tion, have lower oc­cu­pa­tional costs than in Dublin and find it eas­ier to re­cruit staff. For ex­am­ple, KPMG has tre­bled in size and has taken a lease of 2,800 sq m (30,139 sq ft) in John Cleary’s new of­fice build­ing at 85 South Mall. For­ce­point has pre-let the re­main­der of the scheme, which will be com­pleted by year end. Head­line rents are €300 to €320 per sq m.

Clearstream is dou­bling in size and has pre-let up to 9,000 sq m (96,875 sq ft) at O’Cal­laghan Prop­er­ties’ Nav­i­ga­tion Square scheme, at a head­line rent of €325 per sq m. These are large deals in any lo­ca­tion but to have prelet­tings of this scale in Cork is a sure sign of a boom­ing mar­ket.

Other large of­fice schemes un­der con­struc­tion in­clude the 25,000 sq m (269,097 sq ft) Pen­rose Dock scheme, also by John

Cleary, and the Bam/Claren­don Prop­er­ties’ joint de­vel­op­ment on the CIE site at Hor­gan’s Quay, which is ap­prox­i­mately 38,500 sq m (414,410 sq ft), in­clud­ing a ho­tel and res­i­den­tial units.

Given the ex­pan­sion of em­ploy­ment, one would have ex­pected that city-cen­tre apart­ment de­vel­op­ment would be vi­able again, but both O’Flynn, and Peter O’Meara, di­rec­tor at Sav­ills, agree that this is not yet the case.

In­deed, O’Meara was strong in his views that the Na­tional Plan­ning Frame­work (NPF) guide­lines, which are see­ing plan­ners push­ing for apart­ment­type den­si­ties on sub­ur­ban sites, are pre­vent­ing de­vel­op­ment there. As he elo­quently puts it:

“If apart­ments aren’t vi­able in the city, how can they be vi­able in the sub­urbs?” Con­versely, he tells me that there are per­haps 30 res­i­den­tial schemes un­der con­struc­tion around Cork, rang­ing from small projects, up to Cork’s largest project, the 200-house scheme at Heath­field, Ballincol­lig. All of these are de­tached and semi-de­tached houses which O’Meara tells me will sell well.

Both agents agree that the in­vest­ment mar­ket is strong with prime of­fices mak­ing be­tween

5pc and 5.5pc, and in­dus­trial ap­prox­i­mately 6pc. Prime in­dus­trial rents are €80-€85 per sq m.

At Cork Cham­ber of Com­merce, Sarah Thatt-Fo­ley, pub­lic af­fairs ex­ec­u­tive, told me that con­fi­dence among the Cham­ber’s 1,200 mem­bers is high, and rose to record lev­els in their lat­est sur­vey. The con­tro­versy over the new traf­fic ar­range­ments in the main shop­ping street, St Pa­trick’s Street, is abat­ing and the cur­rent scheme, which gives pri­or­ity to buses and taxis be­tween 3pm and 6.30pm is re­garded as a suc­cess.

“It has in­creased foot­fall in the city cen­tre,” she told me “and im­proved the re­li­a­bil­ity of buses, which is good news for shop­pers, and staff.”

Thatt-Fo­ley ex­pects that an up­com­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal sur­vey will show im­proved air qual­ity in the city cen­tre. I was cer­tainly im­pressed by the lit­ter-free ap­pear­ance of St Pa­trick’s Street on my visit.

KPMG Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent Prop­erty Ex­cel­lence Awards 2018

I’m look­ing for­ward to co-host­ing the Prop­erty Awards tonight at the Con­ven­tion Cen­tre Dublin. The event is firmly es­tab­lished as the premier oc­ca­sion for recog­nis­ing and pro­mot­ing ex­cel­lence in the prop­erty in­dus­try. This year’s event is big­ger and bet­ter than ever, with more en­tries, more award cat­e­gories, and an au­di­ence of over 1,000 peo­ple at­tend­ing.

The al­ready-high stan­dard of en­tries has im­proved yet again, per­haps re­flect­ing stronger mar­ket con­di­tions, and there is very strong com­pe­ti­tion in all of the cat­e­gories.

I’m de­lighted that I will be joined as co-host, by my fel­low Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent colum­nist and fi­nance ex­pert, Sinead Ryan. And I’m ex­cited about my op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­view a very spe­cial guest.

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