“The Customs House has been at the heart of the Port of Cork for over 100 years and our move out, while sad in some ways, also heralds a new and exciting era for the company. Our headquarters teams have moved to port offices closer to our operations in Tivoli and Ringaskiddy as we formulate our plans for the future.” - Port of Cork Board Spokesman to Cork Examiner.
The Custom House
The old Cork Custom House, an intrinsic part of the city’s maritime history, has been vacated by the State Port of Cork company with staff at corporate headquarters vacated the premises on to offices in Tivoli and Ringaskiddy.
999 Year Lease
The Custom House building was designed by William Hargrave in 1881 and built at Custom House Street between the north and south channels of the River Lee. In 1904 the Cork Harbour Commissioners took over the building on a 999 year lease.
The boardroom designed by William Price, Cork Harbour Engineer himself was added in 1906, the Committee Room, a panelled room with pale cream and gold wallpaper with a patterned ceiling. The Boardroom and Committee Room house a collection of maritime artwork owned by the Port of Cork Company.
The Customs House is in perfect condition, with the move to Tivoli port temporary, as the Tivoli Port lands (153 acres) are themselves being handed over to developers with the state (through the port and docks board) underwriting all costs of redevelopment. In 2020, the Port appointed a new chief executive with “property experience.”
The Custom House was the base of operations for Cork port since 1904 and is itself located on a valuable wedge-shaped 2 acre site at Custom House Quay, at the north and south channels of the River Lee. The port land includes 200-year-old bonded warehouses, sold for €5 million in 2017 to Tower Development Properties Ltd, owned by US-based developer Kevin O’Sullivan. The proposed hotel is to be built at Custom House Quay.
Appeal to An Bord Pleanala
The plans for a 240-bedroom skyscraper hotel on the site (34 storeys, and twice the height of the Elysian) are with An Bord Pleanála (planning board) following an appeal of Cork City Council’s decision to give it the go-ahead. A decision is due from the board by March 22nd.
The application is opposed by the Irish Georgian Society. The Tower Holdings Group, the developers who plan to build on the Custom House Quay site, are also behind the €20 million Prism Building, a 15-storey 6,000 sq m office space planned for a site at Clontarf St in Cork, placed next to Cork’s Parnell Place bus station. The Prism is 'inspired' of the Flatiron Building in New York.
This move from the Cork Port sacrifices another significant piece of Ireland's architectural heritage, and exposes Cork Customs House through neglect to the possible fate of Aldborough House (a near-ruin) and Belcamp House (destroyed by fire).