9 Sep 2019

Kieran’s Speech, Part 8, Docklands & Albert Road, Cork City Council, 9 September 2019

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 Lord Mayor,

The large number of public submissions is most welcome and to accommodate a good tract of public comment is also welcome.

I will be voting for this proposal.

I’m happier with this Docklands part 8 report than I was on the Morrison’s Island plan Part 8. There is more consultation than ever before on such a project.

For me the heritage of this area is important – the built and cultural heritage.

Albert Road and the Hibernian Buildings complex – dating to the mid-1880s – was a product of the Cork Improved Dwelling Company – an employer organisation who had the vision to build 420 houses for their workers in the city – apart from Hibernian buildings, the other blocks being around Friar Street-Evergreen Buildings and Rathmore Terrace at the top of St Patrick’s Hill. The company, which set up in January 1860 and ran to about 1960 had its heart the importance of provision of affordable housing for workers in the city but also neighbourhoods with architectural character, where families could be brought up safely and a sense of place could be built – which this Part 8 is also about today.

Hibernian Buildings was lucky in its opening in the 1880s that Jewish refugees from Lithuania rented out some of the properties and within twenty years there were 300 Jews living in the area.

Today knocking on the doors of the area, the Jewish family legacy is gone and perhaps 20 old stock families have survived in the area, many of whose relatives worked in the docks. Much of the housing stock in Hibernian Buildings is rented – so I constantly fear for the fleetingness of its neighbourhood. Some who live in the area have shared with me their passion for the neighbourhood and worry about its future and the looming new buildings overlooking the area.

I am happy with this part 8 that through the public realm regeneration that the character of the neighbourhood will be regenerated and enhanced.

I am also happy that the quay project itself does not destroy heritage but takes an ugly concrete structure – rebuilt after its 1975 collapse – to create where the public can come and appreciate the story of Docklands through seating, trees and soft public realm measures for cyclists and buses, and  a pontoon in the river.

My main worry with this area is the creation of a bland-placeless environment, where glass box design with no architectural detail rules and street development takes a back seat.

I am reminded of the 1780 Cork Corporation plan for the area where they wanted to great an Oliver Plunkett Street complex with side streets in docklands.

And when I talk about vision, I am quite worried that our South Docklands plan is taking time to come out. The Council needs this plan as soon as possible as the piecemeal development of South Docks continues apace. Developing a place with character and a sense of place is crucial for me.

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