Retail may be evolving but great service remains key to success

The following is an excellent article written by Owen Clifford, head of retail sector at Bank of Ireland, which featured in the Independent on Thursday 29th August 2019. 



The future of retail is much debated, but often the way the debate is framed is inherently flawed. It's not a question of physical versus online. The sector cannot be packaged neatly in such a binary manner. The foundation of retail is interaction with the customer.


Leading Irish-owned brands such as SuperValu, Dunnes Stores, Elverys Sports, Carraig Donn and numerous other family-owned retailers nationwide are continuously investing in their stores, their people and their offering, to deliver an excellent customer experience. They have not succumbed to new competition or the threat of online.


Instead of dying, they continue to be reborn and reimagined every day, every year, every decade.


These successful retailers have utilised the 'four Rs' of store investment proactively and effectively - reinvigorate, repurpose, rent-out and right-size - to ensure that they remain relevant and fresh in a competitive marketplace.


Retail is part of our culture; the concept of the marketplace in varying forms and manifestations can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome, where it was a centre for human interaction and building meaningful customer relationships.


Psychologists tell us that we are, at our core, 'social beings'. We continue to pack out venues to support our favourite sports teams or listen to our favourite bands when we could easily do the same from the comfort of our sofa. Why? Because we value and enjoy the human interaction and overall experience that these events provide.


In turn, we visit physical stores not just to shop but because we value human interaction and the experience that this provides.


They offer an escape from our busy lives and an experience that online shopping cannot replicate: seeing, smelling, trying and testing products, touching them, speaking with knowledgeable sales staff, engaging with other people in-store.


It is this core principle that underpins the future of the physical store. Successful retailers know that their stores need to reflect the vision and values of their customers, creating a positive experience.


Technology is not a threat to the physical store and will never replace the human aspect in retail.


Progressive retailers are embracing technology and driving an omni-channel approach within their stores for the benefit of us, the customers. Physical stores are part of our culture and investment in technology is being used to deliver a customer-centric retail experience, through click-and-collect, electronic shelf labels, real-time pricing, digital receipts/mobile vouchers, in-store virtual dressing rooms, etc. However, the core of the customer experience remains the physical store, and these innovations merely augment and add to the experience.


Numerous international reports point to three key areas for customers in visiting a store and, more importantly, revisiting the store - the 'boomerang effect' as outlined so well by the late Feargal Quinn. These three pillars of customer engagement are: excellent service and standards, accessibility and price.


I have visited over 250 family-owned retail businesses throughout Ireland over the past two years and I continue to emphasise the importance of a balanced customer engagement strategy for their business, that encompasses all three pillars. Indeed, for SMEs competing opposite larger multinational operators, it is imperative that they maintain a strategy across all three strands and are not overly focused on just price. Price is just one element of value, along with quality and provenance of produce, and supporting the customer with their health and wellness agenda.


Progressive retailers recognise that regular investment in their stores is a fundamental element of creating an excellent customer experience. Our own data shows that leading retailers are investing amounts equating to five to 10 weeks of turnover in transforming their stores every two to four years. This equates to 10pc to 20pc of an individual store's annual turnover performance.


A robust investment plan draws on feedback from existing and targeted customers, employees and suppliers. It's an holistic, interactive process ensuring that the retailer remains engaged with the customer and wider community. Smart retailers know a well-planned and executed investment strategy can deliver recurring, significant return on investment. To quote Don Draper from Mad Men: "Success comes from standing out, not fitting in."


However, I have also witnessed retailers spending six-figure sums on store revamps and not receive any uplift in sales or margin.


Without a strategy that has planning and constant evaluation/engagement at its core, a revamp will not deliver an appropriate return on investment for the retailer.


Once the buzz of the official relaunch has taken place, the store will slowly return to the status quo and the retailer will be the latest victim of a 'Cinderella revamp'.


The reality is that the retail landscape is forever changing, but while trends and preferences are cyclical, the delivery of a consistent, excellent customer experience remains at the core of all successful businesses.


More and more e-commerce retailers are complementing their online offerings with physical stores (Amazon and Alibaba being just two examples), and most physical retailers are using online to ensure they remain engaged with their customers.


Commentators signalling the death of the bricks-and-mortar store are driving a negative storyline in respect of the SME retail sector at present.


It's a misguided narrative, based on the evidence to hand, and should be challenged. The future of retail is bright - let's all continue to enjoy the experience.


Five Cork City Centre shops included in Retail Ireland’s Top 100 Stores

Five Cork city centre stores have been selected in Retail Excellence Ireland’s top 100 stores, from almost 700 entries.  It recognises their superior commitment to customer service excellence and customer engagement.



Paul McGuirk, Head of Local Enterprise, Cork City said:

‘We are delighted that five Cork city centre stores have been included in this year’s top 100. We have worked closely with the City Centre Forum over the last two years to provide customer service training and supports to businesses as part of the Cork City Customer Service Charter. The fact that four of the five city centre businesses have undertaken this training is testament to the success of this.’


The five city centre stores included are 'Vibes and Scribes' bookshop on Lavitts Quay, 'Diane O’ Mahony Jewellers' on Winthrop street, 'The Kilkenny Shop' on Emmet place, 'Specsavers' on Opera Lane and the visitors shop at Nano Nagle Place on Douglas Street. As part of the Top100 selection process, all store entrants were visited by a mystery shopper, with those exceeding service and standards criteria making it to the Top100 stores.

Set just outside the city centre, Phelan's Pharmacy in Blackrock Hall also found itself ranked highly amongst Retail Excellence Ireland's Top100 stores. (Phelan's Pharmacy also have a presence on St Patrick's Street in Cork City Centre.)


Joan Lucey, owner of Vibes and Scribes and one of the main advocates for Cork City's customer service movement, said:

‘We are delighted with this result for the city and believe its another step in our customer service journey. Customers now want a real connection and a very high-quality service, so we all need to look regularly at our offering'.


Earlier in the year, Cork City was the first city in Europe to launch a Customer Service Charter, which was developed with the assistance of CIT School of Business. The City Centre Forum and the Local Enterprise Office are also planning two significant customer service events over the coming months.

‘Welcome to our new city’ family fun days kick off in Glanmire!

The first of four ‘Welcome to our new city’ family fun days across the extended Cork City will take place in Glanmire this Saturday, August 31 from 10.00 to 14.00.


Hosted by Red FM in association with Cork City Council, Lord Mayor Cllr. John Sheehan will be in attendance at an event welcoming the residents of Glanmire to Cork City.


The Lord Mayor will begin his traditional annual visits to Cork city schools next week, visiting 119 schools in total – with 22 of these in the area that transferred into Cork city three months ago.


Three more ‘Welcome to our new city’ family fun days will take place at Douglas, Blarney and Ballincollig over the coming Saturdays.


Lord mayor, Cllr John Sheehan said:

“ I am honoured to be attending the ‘Welcome to Our New City’ fun days and to be  the first  Lord Mayor  to visit schools in the newly extended Cork City. The traditional annual visit by the Lord Mayor has been enjoyed by generations of Cork students, dating back to Terence McSwiney in the 1920s. In the coming weeks, we will be visiting schools in Ballincollig, Glanmire, Douglas, Frankfield, Grange, Blarney, Tower and Whites Cross as well as working to build connections between the wider communities of the new city”.



Fresh from their performance at this year’s Indiependence Music & Arts Festival, Glanmire musical group ‘Aura’ will bring the tunes this Saturday.


There will also be a giant Jenga and Connect 4 for families to get stuck into and coaches from Cork Sports Partnership will be organising street games and races.  We will also be joined by voluntary community groups who will be on hand to talk about the many services and supports they offer:-

  • SAFE (Suicide Awareness For Everyone) in Glanmire is a group formed in 2009 following a number of suicides in the community. SAFE Glanmire will join us to share information on their support services.
  • Riverstown FC is an amateur football club based in Glanmire. They cater for boys and girls aged 6 up to adult level. They will be free to chat about the growth of the club and will be giving advice to anyone interested in joining the team!
  • St John’s Ambulance is a voluntary organisation which provides  medical cover at events and first aid courses for the public.


All are welcome – but make sure you arrive early! There will be  prizes to win from local businesses and the first 100 people to join us will enjoy 100 free cupcakes.



Cork Culture Night 2019


With less than four weeks to go until multiple Leeside venues, streets and public spaces come alive with the sights and sounds of music, dance, theatre, art and much more, preparations are in full swing to ensure that Cork City Culture Night 2019 leaves a lasting impression. Launched on Wednesday 28th August by Cork City Culture Night Ambassador and Derry Girls star Siobhán McSweeney, this year’s event boasts a programme of events that will draw crowds in their droves into the city on Friday 20th September, all keen to catch a glimpse of the action taking place in over 100 participating venues.


Cork’s Culture Night celebrations in 2019 will reach farther afield than previous years thanks to the recent boundary extension, which has seen the city bounds stretch to areas such as Ballincollig, Glanmire, Blarney, Douglas and Whites Cross. Those unable to make it into the centre of the city on the night need not worry about missing out; with events such a photography exhibition and short film screening at Ballincollig’s Gunpowder Mills Centre and a traditional music session in Glanmire, culture vultures all across Cork can immerse themselves in the buzz and excitement.


Speaking as this year’s Cork City Culture Night was officially launched at the Triskel Arts Centre, Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr John Sheehan commented:

“Cork plays a huge role in maintaining Ireland’s reputation for the vast cultural heritage and sheer volume of talent that exists here, across all facets of the arts. Culture Night in particular offers us a unique opportunity to showcase the many wonderful strings to this city’s bow, in terms of drama, music, literature, art and much more. I would encourage the people of Cork to make a point of circling Friday 20th September in their calendars, to take the opportunity to tour this wonderful city of ours over the course of the evening, and to soak up the many free events on offer across more than 100 artistic and cultural venues. It’s truly a chance for us all to ‘Wrap Up in Culture’ and lose ourselves in a little magic for one night only.”


In a city that celebrates the arts in many ways all year round, what is it that sets Culture Night apart from any other day of the week? There are three key criteria that distinguishes a Culture Night event or venue:

  • It must be a free event
  • It must be open and accessible to the public after 4pm
  • Participating venues must offer something different from the norm

The latter point is incredibly evident within the 2019 programme of events, with a vast array of venues, from cafes, pubs and theatre spaces to educational institutions and art galleries all going above and beyond to ensure this year’s celebrations are as unique as they are memorable. Examples of such events can be found at Cork University Hospital, who are offering tours of their in-house art collection from 5pm – The West Cork Collection – which consists of 32 artworks and is kindly on loan from Paul and Aileen Finucane, while the Quay Co-Op will play host to an evening of short film, presented by IndieCork Festival and kicking off at 7pm.


Younger culture vultures will certainly not be overlooked this year, with a variety of fun and interactive events taking place across the city. The ‘Around the World in 80 Games’ extravaganza at City Hall, one of this year’s highlights, will introduce young people, and indeed people of all ages, to a unique intercultural experience, inviting them to participate in games from the past, games from other cultures and street games we all know and love.


Pitch'd Circus Arts Festival returns for 2019 and will feature street performances and circus spectacles, including a teenage circus club at Skiddy's Plaza, building to the explosive highlight of the Inferno Fire Show, which will light up the skies of the Coal Quay on Cornmmarket Street. Cork Community Art Link in Blackpool has a real treat in store for young creative minds, inviting guests to view props, floats and costumes used in The Dragon of Shandon Parade, join in an open workshop demonstrating techniques used in creating the Dragon and all her spooky friends, and sign up to get involved in The Dragon of Shandon 2019.


Cork actress Siobhán McSweeney was quick to share her enthusiasm over her status as ambassador of Cork City Culture Night; an annual entity that showcases the city’s deep connection to the arts.

"I feel truly honoured to be the ambassador for an event that embraces and celebrates the rich culture that exists in my home city. Although I've spent the past 15 years working all across Ireland and the UK, my support of Cork and its affiliation to the arts has never waned. Cork City Culture Night has been in existence for more than a decade and there is a reason for such longevity; this city's relationship with theatre, film, art, music and more is enduring and I hope we continue to cherish our creativity for many years to come. Whether you're a regular culture vulture or a newbie on the Culture Night scene, this night is guaranteed to be a memorable one, so let there be no doubt surrounding where you need to be this coming September 20th!"


For more information on Cork City Culture Night 2019, visit or keep up to date with programme additions by following the conversation online #CorkCultureNight and #LOVECulture. Check out Facebook\corkcityarts or Twitter @corkcityarts. Culture Night is brought to you by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Creative Ireland Programme in partnership with Cork City Council.

Help Uncover Cork’s Best Buildings Cork Better Building Awards 2019

The search is on for Cork's best designed and maintained buildings.


Cork Business Association (CBA), in association with Cork City Council, have officially launched the Cork Better Building Awards 2019.

These awards congratulate staff, managers, property owners, developers, architects and designers for high standards in design, conservation and creativity, and also salute the window cleaners, painters and maintenance staff on their good practice in the presentation and upkeep of the buildings. This significantly contributes to a positive public perception of the city as a vibrant and dynamic place to live, visit, invest and do business in.


This year in particular, the CBA also wants to recognise the huge amount of expansion and planning in Cork. To acknowledge this, the Cork Business Association are delighted to announce that the 2019 Cork’s Better Building Awards are open to any building in the greater Cork area. So if the building you consider worthy of nomination is in Ballincollig, Glanmire, Blarney, Douglas or in the City Centre the CBA welcomes your nomination and is urging every business owner, heritage building owner, architect or conservationist to apply before the September 23rd deadline.


Whether you have recently upgraded the exterior of your building, have designed a stunning new build, painted or decorated your building, invested in the upkeep of an old building, introduced a new use for your building or you are just extremely proud of how your building looks, don't delay and enter online or pick up an entry form explaining which category or categories you wish to be considered for and why.

The beauty of Cork’s Better Building Awards is that the public can also get involved and nominate a building that they admire and believe is a stand-up feature in Cork City. You do not have to own or operate the building itself to enter it in the Cork’s Better Building  Awards so please, share with us some of your favourite Cork buildings.


The CBA has tactfully devised eight categories, including the prestigious Judges Choice Award, so your much-loved buildings have more than one chance of being crowned one of Cork’s Better Buildings for 2019.

The categories for the 2019 awards are:

  • Best in Retail
  • Best in Heritage & Conservation
  • Best Café/Restaurant
  • Best Pub Front
  • Best Commercial Business Frontage (excl. retail)
  • Best Tourism, Arts & Accommodation
  • Best New Development
  • Judges Choice


The awards will be presented by the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr John Sheehan, at a complementary invitation-only lunch for award winners at the Cork City, Clayton Hotel, on Friday 18th October.

In addition to this, all the 2019 winners will also receive extensive media coverage in Cork's favourite newspaper and the Cork’s Better Building Awards media partner, the Evening Echo, as well as promotion right across all Cork Business Association’s platforms and inclusion in the Cork Business Association’s quarterly newsletter, Cork Connected.


Speaking about the awards, Lawrence Owens, CEO of Cork Business Association, said,

“The number of cranes currently visible in Cork’s skyline is a clear indicator of the amount of development in progress in our city with an estimated €1.3bn worth of projects started or completed last year. This is positive news for the future of Cork as the urban form continues to evolve with new and innovative projects. The Cork Better Building Awards, which we are thrilled to partner with Cork City Council on again, are a fantastic opportunity to encourage businesses to improve their facades and consequently the overall look of the city. The judging team put a lot of focus on recognizing maintenance and simple good housekeeping of buildings, tasks like painting and cleaning, planting and enhancements that make the very best of the building.  The facade and exterior areas of a building are one of its biggest selling tools, particularly in a business context so one of our main aims in running these annual awards is to encourage everyone to have pride in their buildings and foster a pride of place in Cork”. 


Also commenting, Ann Doherty of Cork City Council, said,

“Cork City Council recognises how important it is to acknowledge and reward property owners who keep our buildings to a high standard and, in doing so, highlight Cork as a fantastic place to shop, work and live.  In 2019, it is really positive to see that the occupancy levels continue to increase and we are thrilled to welcome new retailers, pubs & restaurateurs and other businesses to Cork. We are delighted to support these awards again and would encourage all to participate.”


Last year’s winners included Crowley’s Opticians, L’attitude 51, Caughlan’s Pub, Casey & Kingston Auctioneers, Vila & Selected, Vienna Woods Hotel, Pilz, Egan’s Opticians, Old Model School, and the Judges Choice Award for 2018 was awarded to Nano Nagle Place.  Entries this year are open to all buildings in the greater Cork area and to all previous winners again if they so wish.


We want to see your building portrayed in its best possible light so please send us a recent, high resolution photograph and/or video of your building to enhance your entry. Your entry will not be complete without the inclusion of a photograph of your nominated building.


The closing date for applications is Monday, September 23rd 2019 to afford the judges time to inspect and visit the nominated buildings.


If you think your building is worthy of winning one (or more) of the categories, or if you would like to nominate a building, please fill out an application form on or call 021 4278295 and we will post the form to you.



Cork City bars win big at the Bar of the Year Awards 2019

The Victorian Quarter showed their dominance in the land of all things liquor last night with Cask and The Shelbourne Bar coming up trumps at the 2019 Bar of the Year Awards.


Other Cork establishments that brought home the bacon for the Rebel county were Impala who won best craft beer bar and the Montenotte Hotel which won best Hotel bar.


Cork bar and restaurant Cask took home a number of titles including the overall award of Bar of the Year for the second year in a row, Cocktail bar of the year, bar manager of the year and also came second in the Innovative bar of the year category.


Cask Bar manager of the year Andy Ferreira said he was very happy that his bar managed to nab the title of best bar of the year for a second year.


Andy Ferreira, Manager of Cask Picture. John Allen

“For us, it is all about consistency, our cocktails have to be as good on a Tuesday afternoon as on a busy Saturday night and to win the award for a second-year shows consistency.”
Mr Ferreira said six of the senior staff members went to Dublin for the award ceremony last night and they had a brilliant night celebrating their achievements.

“It was a great night, we really let the hair down and we are also very proud to represent Cork and to put Cork on the map as a must-visit destination for a great night out.”


The Shelbourne Bar was named 2019 Whiskey bar of the year.

Philip Gillivan, The Shelbourne Bar.Picture: Denis Minihane.

Philip Gillivan, The Shelbourne Bar. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Speaking to The Echo, Owner of The Shelbourne Bar and CBA President Philip Gillivan said he was delighted with the win.

“The Shelbourne Bar is delighted to win the best whiskey bar in Ireland for the second year running last night in Dublin.


“The team in the Shelbourne are passionate about Irish whiskey and this award is for the entire team who make it all happen in the Shelbourne.”


The winners of all categories were revealed at a gala awards ceremony Mondaynight at the Clayton Hotel, Dublin, hosted by Newstalk’s Tom Dunne.


Source: Roisin Burke, EchoLive 

Murphy’s Cork Oyster and Seafood Festival Joins Forces with Failte Ireland and Taste the Island

Huge opportunity to promote restaurants, hotels and bars from across Cork city and county


The Murphy’s Cork Oyster and Seafood Festival 2019, one of Ireland’s fastest growing foodie festivals, has joined forces with Failte Ireland and “Taste the Island” to promote  a multitude of events across Cork city and county this September.  “Taste the Island” is a new initiative to promote the island of Ireland’s extensive catalogue of food and drink experiences to domestic and international visitors, creating opportunities for Irish businesses to attract higher numbers of visitors outside of the already busy summer months.


The Festival will take place from Friday 20th September until Sunday 22nd September and will involve close to 60 venues across Cork city and county.  Amongst the key events this year are the second annual “All Ireland Oyster Shucking Competition”, as well as exclusive gigs with perennial favourites Paddy Casey and The Frank and Walters.  The famous “Cork Gourmet Trail”, featuring some of Cork's best restaurants, has already sold out.


On Friday 20th September, festival-goers can enjoy “A Jameson Experience” with Head Cooper, Ger Buckley as well as “A History of Prosecco” masterclass. Throughout the weekend, the Guinness Book of Records fastest Oyster shucker, Paddy the Shucker and The Lazy Chef, Simon Lamont will be on hand.


On Saturday 21st September, the hugely popular Cork Gourmet Trail will take place from 12 noon. The day will start with a drinks reception at the Metropole Hotel before taking off on a culinary tour of Cork’s best restaurants. Also that evening the Metropole will host a very special evening with music from the Frank and Walters.


Aaron Mansworth, Group Managing Director for Trigon Hotels said;

“The Murphy’s Cork Oyster and Seafood Festival has been going from strength to strength in recent years, thanks to the hard work of all the suppliers, chefs, shuckers and venues. The support in 2019 from Failte Ireland and Taste the Island means we can look forward to our most successful event ever, promising a full weekend festival of celebration of seafood, culture and music.”



Also as part of the festival, attendees can avail of  the specially constructed “OYSTER PEARL” package. Guest can enjoy all that The Murphy’s Cork Oyster Festival & Seafood festival has to offer at The Metropole hotel with two nights Bed & Breakfast and an arrangement of activities that will ensure a great week is to be had by all. The package costs from €498 for two people, and includes;


  • Opening night Drinks and Oyster reception along with a Jameson barrel masterclass with head cooper from the Jameson Distillery Ger Buckley
  • Dinner in The Met on Friday evening
  • Tickets to Paddy Casey Live on the Friday night 20th September
  • Saturday, start the day with a Gin & Tonic at 12 noon at The Metropole Hotel, followed by a food tour of the city tasting food from 12 restaurants in four venues around the city, finish the evening back at The Metropole Hotel
  • Exclusive Jameson & Oyster masterclass hosted by Patrick McMurray “ Shucker Paddy” at the Met at 7pm on Saturday
  • Ticket to The Frank & Walters Live on the Saturday night 21st September
  • Sunday, access to the All-Ireland Oyster Shucking Competition featuring International & National Championships with live entertainment from 2pm.


Tickets for all events are on sale on Eventbrite and more details on


The Metropole Hotel is part of the Trigon Hotel Group, which has 334 guest rooms across three hotels in Cork. The group comprises of the Cork International Hotel, The Metropole Hotel and the Cork Airport Hotel. Some of the other events which took place at the hotels over the last 12 months include the Cork Cork Show and the Cork Chocolate Festival.

RIP Val O’Connor – One of Cork’s most well-known funeral directors and exceptional businessman

Val O'Connor (front), proprietor of O'Connor's funeral home, pictured here in 2018 with then-Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald and Finbarr O'Connor. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The Cork Business Association was extremely saddened to learn of the death of well-known funeral director Val O' Connor, one of Cork's most accomplished business leaders and one of the principal innovators of the funeral business in Ireland. His passion and commitment ensured that this incredible family business continues to serve the people of Cork in its 132nd year of trading.
As recently as 2017, O' Connor Bros won the Cork Business Association Best Family Business Award highlighting the incredible commitment of Val his compassion as a person and his vision as a businessman.

Mr O’Connor, who turned 90 in February, passed away on Wednesday night in Marymount Hospice following a short illness. He was surrounded by his loving family.

Mr O’Connor was a founding member of the Irish Association of Funeral Directors and chair of the fundraising committee for the North Cathedral refurbishment.

He was also a committee member of Opera 2005.

O’Connor Bros was established in 1887 in Blarney Street by Thomas F O’Connor.

The company moved to 70 Shandon Street after the company was passed to John Francis and Thomas Finbarr O’Connor, sons of the founder, and subsequently moved to North Gate Bridge, where it is still located, under the ownership of Val O’Connor, grandson of the founder.

O’Connor Bros opened the first funeral home in Ireland in 1967. Prior to this, removals were carried out from hospital morgues or from family homes. O’Connor Bros celebrated its 130th year in business in 2017.

Mr O’Connor was invited to Cork City Hall in January, 2018 where he was honoured with a reception from the then Lord Mayor, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald (FF). Speaking to The Echo, Cllr Fitzgerald said he was very sad to hear of the death of Mr O’Connor.

“Val will be remembered for his kind and personal support to those who were bereaved. He had a warm friendly engagement with everyone he met,” said Cllr Fitzgerald. “He was particularly pleased and genuinely honored to be recognised for his families 130th year in business.

“He loved the Lord Mayor’s Office and was humbled to receive the recognition where he praised his family and staff. He was instrumental in restoring the iconic North Cathedral.”

Mr O’Connor is survived by his wife Annette, children Laura, Finbarr, Sally-Ann, and Lisa, and his grandchildren Ian, Alison, Shane and Jenna.

Ireland’s tallest building will be a “defining new signature building” for Cork

At 140 metres, the Custom House Tower would be Ireland's tallest building by a significant margin if it is approved and built.

The developers planning Ireland’s tallest building said their skyscraper will not obstruct or have a detrimental effect on Cork’s iconic skyline of church spires.

Tower Holdings are proposing a 34-storey skyscraper hotel at Custom House Quay that would reach approximately 140m in height.

If approved and constructed, it would become Ireland’s tallest building by a significant margin, outstripping the current tallest building, the 79m-high Capital Dock in Dublin.

While the tower will form the focus of the site, the bonded warehouses will also be redeveloped for a variety of uses.

While the tower will form the focus of the site, the bonded warehouses will also be redeveloped for a variety of uses.

In documents filed with City Hall, the developers say it is fully intended that the Custom House Tower will become a “defining new signature building” for Cork.

The New York-based company said: “The tower will not obstruct or have a detrimental effect on existing tall features such as church spires, or the Elysian tower and features in designated protected views and prospects and scenic routes considering its location.”

Below the hotel, the Bonded Warehouses will be occupied by a range of uses to complement the hotel including retail, restaurants, cafes, and gallery and cultural spaces, with a public promenade wrapping around the entire site. A landmark distillery building will be located where both channels of the River Lee meet.

The tower will include a spa, pool and treatment rooms at levels 5 and 6; plant at levels 7, 26 and 32; hotel rooms and suites at levels 8 to 25; hotel serviced suites at levels 27 to 31; and a restaurant and sky bar at levels 33 to 34.

The guest bedrooms will face east and west, to enjoy views of the City and Docklands and there will be an outdoor terrace at the top of the tower for visitors to enjoy views of the city.

“On approach from the east, the new tall building will be seen against a backdrop of sky and the full impact of its silhouette on the skyline will be fully realised and understood within its wider context,” the company said in their planning application.

 Architect Marco Gamini explains the designs to members of the public including (right) John Adams, who has organised a petition against large-scale commercial development of the site. Pic; Larry Cummins.

Architect Marco Gamini explains the designs to members of the public including (right) John Adams, who has organised a petition against large-scale commercial development of the site. Pic; Larry Cummins.

“The Custom House Tower will assume a central position on the city’s skyline. It will also form part of the emerging cluster of taller and higher buildings in the City Harbour Interchange Area which include the Elysian, the permitted Prism tower and the proposed Albert Quay Tower [if permitted].”

Recent planning applications for tall buildings in Cork have led to a debate between planners, developers, architects, heritage groups, and the general public about how Cork’s skyline should develop in the future.

Competing petitions are currently in place both in favour and opposed to a tall building on the Custom House Quay site.

Tower Holdings was recently granted planning permission for the 15-storey Prism office develop on the triangular site next to the city bus station.

That development was objected to by heritage body An Taisce who said it would ruin views of historical buildings and that a building of this height would set a precedent for others on the city centre island.

The developers said the Custom House Tower will become a “defining new signature building” for Cork.

The developers said the Custom House Tower will become a “defining new signature building” for Cork.

However, their view was countered by the former Head of Planning on Cork City Council, Pat Ledwidge who said: “The urban form of any city must evolve, as must the nature and use of buildings.”

“If this evolution does not occur, the sustainable development of the city will not occur.”

An initial decision date for the Custom House Quay site is September 24 but further information could be sought from the developers pushing a decision date back further.

Source: Alan Healy, EchoLive 

Key figures in business and hospitality sectors seek reassurances about Cork event centre


Key figures in Cork’s business and hospitality sectors have asked to meet developers, BAM, to seek reassurances about the stalled event centre project.


The Cork Business Association (CBA), as well as representatives of the city’s vintners, hoteliers and restaurateurs also plan to maintain pressure on the developers, the local authority, political leaders and the government in a bid to ensure the remaining hurdles blighting the project are overcome.


“There is a lot of anxious talk about the economy at the moment and lots of businesses in Cork are depending on this project,

We need to understand what exactly is going on here and what needs to be done to ensure this is built.”

CBA president, Philip Gillivan said.


This move follows the latest and unexpected delay to the beleaguered project which has seen costs soar from €50m to nearly €80m.


On Monday, it emerged that a planning decision on the enlarged venue, which was due this week, has been deferred because a new environmental report is required.


Planners have told BAM they must submit a Natura Impact Statement (NIS) to address the potential direct and indirect impacts of the event centre development on two EU protected habitats several miles downstream.


BAM has been given six months to respond but it is understood that they plan to deal with it quickly. Once it's submitted, planners must issue a decision within two months.


It is understood this is the only outstanding planning issue, fuelling hopes that a positive planning decision may issue.


The CBA met city council chief executive, Ann Doherty, on Wednesday, for a briefing on the latest complication.


CBA president, Philip Gillivan, said they are now planning a sustained campaign, in association with the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) Cork, the Vintners Federation Cork (VFI) and the Restaurant Association of Ireland Cork (RAI) to ensure the venue is delivered.


In February, the Cork branch of the IHF called for “absolute confirmation” on event centre delivery. Ten days later, the IHF, VFI and RAI issued a joint statement calling for “certainty, accountability and meaningful communication” on the project.


The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) also warned this week that delays in infrastructure projects in the south, including the event centre, will have repercussions for the wider economy.


It said bureaucracy and the Government’s procurement system has hindered the pace of growth in the region: “The Government has told us that Cork and cities in the south and west need to grow at twice the rate of Dublin over the next 20 years. To achieve this, we would need to see a significant increase in investment in infrastructure today to have any chance of achieving a balanced Ireland."


It also mentioned the Dunkettle interchange, the M20 and M28 roads projects.


Source: Eoin English, Irish Examiner