Curtain Call for Capitol Cineplex
Sometime last year, I wrote an article on this blog about a series of redevelopments and building projects slated to take place in Cork over the next couple of years. Just about all these projects have been greenlit and are funded. One Albert Quay is quite literally racing towards completion, Paírc uí Chaoimh is currently being demolished, much like the Cork team during the last All-Ireland championships, and the long saga of the events centre selection has finally come to a conclusion, with the winners BAM/Heineken wondering how the hell to make something of the mess the bidding process left behind. Hell, the city even survived the recent opening of Starbucks at 39 Princes Street without being immolated by the flames of eternal damnation, as promised by some cafe owners. Only Irish Rail is taking a page from the Deutsche Bahn playbook and has delayed their new entrance and approach road to Kent Station again and again.
|They're heeeere - And unlike some people claim, it's not the end of the world|
Well, just this past Friday, a new project finally came to the surface: The redevelopment of the Capitol Cineplex on Grand Parade. John Cleary Developments, the driving force behind One Albert Quay and the the CityGate development at Mahon Point has officially applied for planning permission for a 50 million Euro redevelopment of the site of the former Capitol Cineplex.
It’s about time, goddamnit! The site has been an eyesore ever since the cinema finally closed its doors back in 2005. Considering the prime real estate it sits on, I’m quite frankly surprised that the site wasn’t redeveloped in the years leading up to the crash. You can see the site literally from hundreds of meters away when you’re driving into the city on Washington Street. However, the site, together with the neighboring Central Shoe Store, just tried to soldier on as is, and has for the last few months only hosted a ragtag stand for some islamic missionaries.
|To be frank, whatever design was chosen, it would be a major improvement over the current "ensemble", to use the term loosely.|
That is about to change. In what will be the last large scale retail development possible in the city centre, The cinema, the shoe store, and a building along Patrick Street will be torn down. In its place, a five-story mixed use office and retail building will be built. It is unclear as of yet who the exact tenants will be, but it is safe to say that the much vaunted “Food Innovation Hub” that Simon Coveney, the Minister for Agriculture has talked about so much, will form part of it, not least to take advantage of the close proximity to the English Market, which will be literally next door. Speaking of the English Market, a new access from Patrick Street will be opened.
|A view of the new building from Bishop Lucey Park. The users of that Coke Zero Bikes station are gonna have a hell of a time during construction.|
Well, actually, the access isn’t actually new, it has been used for deliveries to the market for some time, but at the moment, it really isn’t that attractive, being dark, damp, and having all the charm of a set of a third-rate slasher flick. That laneway will be widened, and brightened up by the new building. Architecturally, the project isn’t too adventurous, but at such a site, that doesn’t necessarily constitute a drawback. Grand Parade has for the most part retained an architectural ensemble dating back to the 18th and 19th century, so an avant-garde development would have looked as out of place as a Femen activist at the opening of the Iranian parliament.
Instead, the building, which will apparently receive a cladding similar to Opera Lane, will harken back to Cork’s heyday as a merchant city, with the facade being broken up several times to give the impression of several buildings next to each other, rather than one continuous edifice. The glass facade of the top three office floors will be set back a bit so as to be not immediately obvious. A clock face and spire in line with the axis of Washington Street will serve as an architectural accent for the Grand Parade side of the development. The Patrick Street end will have a more fluid, curved appearance, especially to make the new access to the English Market more attractive.
|A vast improvement over the current state of affairs at the site. I can't wait for completion, which is aimed to be in 2016.|
The announcement of the new development was greeted in Cork in the usual way: With moaning and complaints: Not brave enough, not original enough, too much, too modern, too bland, just open the cinema again, will ya? Sometimes, I think that even the announcement that all the world’s problems had been solved, and no one would have to worry about anything anymore would be talked down in the city.
Seriously though, removing the current eyesore will do wonders for Cork’s West End, especially when combined with the Brewery Quarter Development, which should start being built by 2016, providing that site isn’t too heavily contaminated and the archeologists don’t suddenly stumble across a treasure trove down there. It certainly is overdue and very much welcome, even though the construction traffic will make Grand Parade hell for motorists and cyclists alike, especially with a Coke Zero Bikes station being so close to the project site.
However, this doesn’t mean that Cork will be all sorted out when the project is finished. The eyesore title will simply be passed on to other parts of the city, like the area between the Parnell Place Bus station, and the Jury’s Inn Hotel, the Docklands, or my current favourite, the former Tax Office building just across the river on Sullivan’s Quay. I distinctly remember seeing plans for that site to be redeveloped into a 12 story hotel. Whatever happened to that?