Monday 25 March 2019

Council aiming to have Mallow arts centre‘shovel ready’ by next January

Design team for estimated €5 million project set to be appointed this month

Bill Browne

Tender documents have been issued for the design of the planned multi-million theatre/community arts centre at the landmark Town Hall building in Mallow, with a view to having the project 'shovel ready' by the start of next year.

Billy Smyth, an executive architect with Cork County Council, told the March meeting of the authority's Kanturk/Mallow area committee that it is anticipated the design team would be appointed to the project within the next two weeks. 

It had been feared that the project may be shelved indefinitely after it emerged last year that funding set aside for it had been reallocated to the Mallow Bridge boardwalk. 

While funding for the Town Hall project has yet to be secured, Mr Smyth said it was expected the design team of consultants and engineers would be appointed within the next two weeks. 

"Once that has been done we can begin the process of building up to a Part 8 planning application, which we hope will be published in June. There will then be a 12-week process for it to be returned and ratified by this committee and then at full council," said Mr Smyth.  

"All going well, and with the required funding in place, we will be looking at commencing detailed design in October with a view to tendering the main works contract next January," he added. 

The centrepiece of the planned new facility will be a second floor theatre and auditorium with seating for 202 patrons. The upper level will also incorporate a bar, function room, gallery space, with top floor becoming the Local Enterprise Office. 

The plan for the ground floor includes an arcade/exhibition area, box office, tourist office, a multi-purpose space for community use, courtyard and back stage/delivery area. 

Another key feature of the development will be a walkway or 'indoor street' running through the building from its Main Street entrance though to the rear car-park. 

Mr Smyth said it is envisaged that the development would be a central hub for Mallow's public realm, complementing other projects including those at Mallow Castle and the Town Park.  

Committee chair, Cllr Gearoid Murphy (FF) said it was great to see plans in place for the Town Hall building, which he said had been underutilised for many years. 

"The regeneration of Mallow town centre is important and I particularly like the idea of opening up the ground floor as an extension of the Main Street. It is also great to see there will be rooms available for use by local interest groups," he said.  Cllr John Paul O'Shea (FG) asked what would be the final cost of the project and how would it be funded. 

Senior executive officer Mary Hayes said the project had previously been costed at around €5 million, but that it would not be possible to give a more accurate figure until the design team was in place. 

"There are various different funding streams out there that we will be targeting. The aim is to get it shovel ready for funding calls. That is where Billy is progressing it to," she said. 

Ms Hayes said the Council would be undertaking a consultation process with local community groups as part of the design process before planning permission is sought.  Cllr O'Shea urged that this process not be restricted to groups from Mallow town and extended to include those from the wider north Cork area. 

While, like her colleagues, Cllr Melissa Mullane (SF) was clearly enthusiastic about the project she asked if the €5 million price tag was "excessive". 

Mr Smyth reiterated the point that this was an "indicative figure" that could change depending on the final design.

"However, that figure would be comparable to other similar projects in other parts of the country. This is a protected structure and there are a lot of complicated issues that need to be addressed. As an indicative figure, it is not unreasonable," he said.