Ambitious plan for housing at former Cork asylum

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This publication was originally published on The Irish Examiner news:

The State’s Land Development Agency (LDA) has ambitious housing plans for the landmark site of a derelict former asylum in Cork city which was gutted in a suspected arson attack almost three years ago.

The agency charged with unlocking State land for new homes has submitted a pre-application consultation request to An Bórd Pleanála for a strategic housing development to include 274 new homes on the site of the former St Kevin’s Hospital in Shanakiel — an elevated ridge on the northern banks of the river Lee less than three kilometres from St Patrick’s St, overlooking the Lee Fields.

Homes will range from one-bed to four-bed, offering a mix of suitable accommodation for larger and smaller families, couples and single people.

The plan includes a creche, an office enterprise centre in the converted St Kevin’s Chapel, and the repurposing of the derelict former St Kevin’s building to accommodate 60 apartments.

The listed St Kevin’s building fell into dereliction following the closure of the Our Lady’s Mental Hospital in 2002.

The iconic building was gutted in a suspected arson attack in July 2017, with two-thirds of the imposing five-storey structure’s roof destroyed and the top three floors collapsing.

Within hours of its establishment, the LDA was being urged to examine this site for housing, and for more than a year it has been engaged in detailed talks with the site owners, the HSE, and with city officials.

The LDA now says the planned development will repurpose this well-known Cork landmark into a “new vibrant residential community with distinctive character”.

The agency is mandated by the Government to develop underutilised sites that are in public ownership and there is no better example of such an opportunity as this strategic site, LDA chief executive, John Coleman, said.

“Our ambition is to redevelop this landmark site using best national and international practice in urban regeneration of former institutional lands, to deliver an exemplar affordable housing development that has distinctive character and enduring sense of place. In doing so the LDA will ensure the historical legacy of the site is fully respected.”

It is hoped that a planning application will be lodged this Autumn, with construction starting in 2021, subject to An Bórd Pleanála approval.

The development is arranged over the 5.7 hectare site to take advantage of its south-facing steeply sloping topography and views over the River Lee.

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