€1.8 million in funding from Cork City Council for Shandon Butter Exchange tech hub
Arts organisations' plans for the building were rejected on the grounds that they couldn't raise funds for a €3-€5 million restoration, but public funding is now available for co-working and offices.
Renovation works to Cork city’s historic Butter Exchange building could start as early as next year, following the announcement at last week’s council budget meeting that Cork City Council would give €1.8 million in capital funding to Recreate Shandon CLG to turn the building into a tech and innovation hub called Shandon Exchange.
Northside councillor Dr John Sheehan welcomed the funding, saying “the building has been derelict for far too long so it’s very positive to see. The whole area is in need of rejuvenation.”
“The money came from Capital funding and we would hope there will be the same amount of money available next year, because it’s estimated that it will take between €3 and €5 million to fully renovate the Butter Exchange building.”
He said he hoped that works could begin on the building in 2023.
Co-working offices and meeting rooms
The Shandon Exchange will be a tech and innovation hub and a ”key enabler for start-up companies, scaling companies and entrepreneurship,” according to their website.
13 co-working offices, two meeting rooms, a large multi-use ground floor room, a canteen and a lift to provide access to an upper floor will form part of the steel-framed remodelling of the interior of the building, whose facade was constructed in 1849.
Planning permission for the works was granted by Cork City Council in June of this year on the condition that “the public shall have access into the ground floor multi-use room and into the enclosed garden area.”
There were 11 conditions attached to the planning permission in total, some relating to the architectural sensitivity of the building, and some regarding construction waste disposal: the part of the building renovated in the 1980s has asbestos roofing which requires specialist removal.
Last September, Cork City councillors voted to dispose of the building by lease to Recreate Shandon CLG, the company founded in 2020 by Cork entrepreneur Seán O’Sullivan, for €1 per year, for 25 years to facilitate the tech hub plans.
Arts plans were “unviable” because they didn’t have funding
Arts organisations were told in previous years that their proposals for the building were unviable because they didn’t have funding to renovate the building.
Both the Camden Palace arts centre and Sample-Studios had made proposals for the Butter Exchange and were told that they had not identified sufficient funding streams to be practical options.
Speaking to Tripe + Drisheen in May, Paul Moynihan, Director of Corporate Affairs and International Relations with Cork City Council, said that Cork City Council “wasn’t in a position to put up the three or four million necessary for any given project.”
He said the Shandon Exchange plan for a tech hub was favoured over arts organisations because it was “identified as having a funding stream.”
“Any project that came to us, if it didn’t have an identified viable funding stream, it couldn’t been progressed.”
He also told Tripe + Drisheen that the council had given the building to Recreate Shandon CLG for €1 per year to offset the cost of renovating the now-derelict building, which is now also being covered by Cork City Council.
“The site value can be taken as a contribution towards the overall development plans.”
“Flabbergasted and disappointed”
Camden Palace director David MacCarthy said he was “flabbergasted and disappointed” to hear that Cork City Council could find the resources to renovate the building for a tech hub when arts proposals had been uniformly rejected as unviable.
“It’s very disappointing that they’re now going to move the goalposts and that the rules have suddenly changed,” he said.
“City council has to represent all the interests of the city, not just the business community.”
“I think that now that the circumstances have changed so much, they should start the whole process over again and re-invite submissions.”
2016-2018: Camden Palace Hotel and Sample-Studios have provisional plans for arts uses of the Butter Exchange rejected on the grounds that they don’t have proven funding streams to renovate the building.
May 2020: Recreate Shandon CLG registers as a company.
September 2021: Cork City Council votes to give Recreate Shandon CLG the lease on the Butter Exchange building for €1 per year for 25 years.
March 2022: The chairman of Recreate Shandon goes to San Francisco with a trade delegation from Cork City Council made up of councillors, council executives and Cork Chamber.
April 2022: Recreate Shandon CLG lodge a planning application with Cork City Council for a multimillion euro steel-framed development in the Butter Exchange.
June 2022: Planning application is granted
November 2022: Cork City Council’s annual budget for next year includes €1.8 million for Recreate Shandon CLG.
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