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Growing Upwards: Cork's Booming Construction Sector

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The Elysian, the tallest building in Cork, completed in 2008 ruled over Ireland’s skyline until last year when the capital dock in Dublin eclipsed it by a mere 8 metres.

For over 40 years, Cork has been a champion of tall structures with the Cork County Hall, built in 1968 was the tallest building in Ireland until 2008. Developers are now planning Cork, and Ireland’s, newest tallest building towering 34 floors high. So, what does this mean for construction in Cork, Munster and Ireland?

As mentioned, the Cork County Hall building was completed in 1968 standing at 16 storeys tall and 64.3 metres. The building superseded Dublin’s Liberty Hall as the Republic’s tallest building, a record it was to hold until 2008 and the building of the 68-metre-high 17 storey Elysian, also in Cork.

Construction Trends in Cork and Plans for 2020

On November 6th, 2019, the JCD Group confirmed that it has lodged a planning application directly with An Bórd Pleanála for a soaring €90m, 201-apartment build-to-rent scheme with a landmark 25-storey tower close to the gateway to the sprawling south docks.

If approved, it will be the city’s tallest building at 82m, topping the nearby 71m Elysian, and the 22-storey 79m tower at Capital Dock in Dublin. (But it will still be three metres short of the 85m Obel Tower in Belfast.)

“The plans by JCD to construct a large-scale residential “build to rent” scheme in Cork’s docklands will be a very significant development for the city. This project will sustain 200 construction jobs and deliver 201 apartments into the Cork City residential market and I welcome this landmark investment. There is a lot of positive developments happening in Cork now and this is just one of them that we can look forward to.”

JCD’s scheme includes 93 50sqm one-bed apartments, 104 80sqm two-bed apartments, and four 127sqm three-bed apartments, which the developer says could create up to 800 jobs.

The JCD Group has been responsible for some of Cork’s most significant developments in recent years, completing more than 1.65 million square feet of commercial buildings including The Capitol on Grand Parade, the City Gate complex in Mahon, 85 South Mall, One Albert Quay and the Penrose Dock development currently under construction.

A planning application is also being considered for a 34-storey, 250-bed hotel on Cork’s nearby Custom House Quay site by Tower Holdings. Tower holdings are a New York-based development company with Irish owners and the sale of the site was agreed by Port of Cork for about €5 million in 2017. The tower is designed by architecture firm, Gensler, in association with Henry J Lyons as local architects.

“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”

To put the size of the building into perspective when comparing to the world’s tallest building, the Custom House Tower will reach 140meteres with the world’s tallest building, The Burj Khalifa, standing at 828 meters.

Job Opportunities in Cork’s Construction Sector

Cork city is on track to be the fastest-growing city in Ireland for the next 20 years with a potential population growth of at least 125,000 people in the city alone, with 150,000 in the county.

The government unveiled Project Ireland 2040 with the headline figure of the investment plan would be €116bn in 10 years — however that is just the Government’s side. The idea is that private investors and foreign direct investment will see the money spent by the taxpayer at least matched, if not multiplied.

Some 150 global companies already operate out of Cork including 60 global tech firms and eight of the world’s top 10 pharma companies. Cork’s unemployment rate is low at 5.6% and Cork has youth in abundance – half of the population are under 35-years-old.

These figures will lead to plenty of job opportunities within the construction industry but 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.

To help grow Cork, developers are looking to hire certain key skill sets including; project managers, site foremen, mechanical technicians, electrical design engineers, civil & structural engineers and environmental engineers.

As I mentioned, Cork is growing and so are the salaries for these roles. Cork is getting closer than ever to matching equivalent roles in the Capital. There are several reasons for this but mainly it is due to a skill shortage in the country which has led to a candidate-driven market.

If you’re interested in learning more about construction roles in Cork or hiring any of the above skillsets please get in touch.