Thursday 19 July 2007

€33m event and conference centre boost for city

CORK is finally poised, within two years, to get a €33 million event and conference centre.

Following years of false dawns, an exciting proposal from developers Howard Holdings for a multi-purpose venue — linked to a major hotel located in the heart of the city’s Docklands — has been selected as the favoured of four options pitched to the city council.

In an effort to secure the venue, city manager Joe Gavin recommended in April that the council intervene to drive the project forward.

He secured backing to offer to meet 25% of the cost of providing such a centre, up to a maximum of €12 million.

Mr Gavin invited submissions from the private sector to provide a suitable site, design, build, fund and manage a large-scale event centre.

Four submissions were received from developers, details of which will be outlined in full at a council meeting next Monday night.

But it is understood the proposals came from Medaza, who wanted to build the venue at the Showgrounds; Ascon, who wanted to build on a site at Black Ash; the Hyde Partnership who wanted to build on a site at the Carrigrohane Road; and Howards Holdings who proposed to build the venue on the docklands site which has hosted the Live at the Marquee concert series for the last two years.

In a letter to city councillors yesterday, Mr Gavin said an assessment board examined all the proposals and has recommended the city support the Howard Holdings project.

The proposed multi-million venue will be a three storey glass-fronted building overlooking a public plaza which will open to the River Lee. But key to the proposed centre’s success will be its flexibility.

It has been designed to cater for:

* 6,000-plus performances, including 1,150 seated.

* Seated concerts of up to 4,200.

* Conferences of up to 2,000.

* Gala balls of up to 800 diners.

But the venue could also be configured into smaller modules to host smaller events ranging from 400 to 1,500 capacity.

It will be linked directly to a 200-bedroom hotel with a 1,000-seat banqueting hall. Parking spaces for up to 1,000 cars will be provided.

The facility will be within a 20-minute walk of the city served by a footpath.

Planned public transport infrastructure included in the city’s multi-billion Docklands regeneration strategy will also serve the venue.

The capital cost of construction excluding car parking, ancillary services and the cost of the site, will be €33m.

The city will meet 25% of this which amounts to €8.2m.

Irish Examiner

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