Cork to get Ireland’s tallest building in €150m development

Proposed 34-storey hotel on Port of Cork site hailed as catalyst for docklands development

Cork administrative and business leaders have welcomed the decision by An Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission for a €150 million development incorporating Ireland's tallest building.

The 34-storey tower on the site of the former Port of Cork building on Custom House Quay will include a five star 240 bedroom hotel as well as food and beverage outlets along with a distillery in the accompanying commercial development.

The decision by An Bord Pleanála to grant permission to Tower Holdings for the development followed an appeal by three parties of a decision by Cork City Council to grant planning for the project on October 13th 2020.

The Irish Georgian Society, An Taisce Corcaigh and artist, John Adams had all lodged appeals against the decision by the local authority.


An Bord Pleanála upheld the council’s decision but with 23 conditions attached.

Among the conditions attached is a requirement that the number of parking spaces on the development would be limited to 20 of which five would be for people with impaired mobility and all parking spaces would be provided with electric vehicle charging points.

The developer must also submit details on the installation and management of the maritime themed visitor centre and the operation of the pontoon on Custom House Quay to the planning authority prior to work starting on the project.

Another condition of planning is that Tower Holdings appoint a conservation expert to manage, monitor and implement works on site and ensure adequate protection of the historic fabric of the Custom House and Bonded Warehouses which were built between 1814 and 1849.

This conditions also requires that all repair/restoration works on the Port of Cork site, including the Custom House designed by Abraham Hargrave, be carried out in accordance with best conservation practice including retaining the maximum amount possible of surviving historic fabric in situ.

Tower Holdings must also facilitate the archaeological appraisal of the site and provide for the preservation, recording and protection of archaeological material or features which may exist within the site.

An Bord Pleanála acknowledged that the development, entailing modern design interventions and a tall building will have a significant impact on the urban and visual character of the area with the 34 storey hotel introducing “a major new element visible in key views”.

“It will be prominent and will attain primacy in an emerging cluster of high buildings at this transitional location between the city centre and docklands. The juxtaposition of the new and the old would provide for visual interest which would add to its visual attractiveness,” it noted.

Cork City Council CEO Ann Doherty said the decision was an endorsement of the council's vision for the city after it had earlier granted planning for the project.

“Cork City Council is working to create a city of sustainable urban growth and a true counterbalance to Dublin - a city that can strike a sensitive balance: that respects the past while embracing the future,” she said.

Ms Doherty said the development will deliver “a tourism, economic, hospitality, cultural and amenity proposition on a riverside site that was not previously accessible by the public.

“I am heartened to see an opening up of the bonded warehouses to the public and a visitor centre that celebrates our unique maritime heritage. It is a project where meticulous attention was paid to the principles of conservation.”

It is unclear when work on the project is likely to commence given restrictions on construction due to the Covid 19 pandemic but it has been previously reported that the project will create 200 construction jobs and more than 400 jobs at the development when it is fully operational.

The tower was designed by international architecture firm Gensler and lead architect on the project was Marco Gamini.

Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy said the decision was particularly welcome, coming as it did just days after Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced €353 million of Urban Regeneration and Development Funding for the Cork docklands.

“The plans for multi-purpose use of the site will harness this prime location in the city centre, overlooking the river and standing proudly at the head of the city’s island are a statement of how our city can celebrate its heritage while delivering spaces designed for a modern progressive city.”

The An Bord Pleanála decision was also welcomed by the owner of US-based Tower Holdings Kevin O'Sullivan from Ballinskelligs in south Kerrywho said when his company bought the Port of Cork site back in 2018, it was the presence of the historic Custom House and the adjoining bonded warehouse that attracted him to the site.

“We are delighted with this decision from An Bord Pleanála to uphold the previous permission from Cork City Council. We assembled one of the best design teams in the world, all of whom worked tirelessly to get this scheme right and I would like to sincerely thank them for all their efforts.”

Mr O’Sullivan said the new development will not only revitalise and enhance the site, but offer a programme of cultural events, some office space and an extensive recreational quayside public realm.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times