Roger Hobkinson, Director, of the Destination Consulting team of Colliers International in Dublin said: “Colliers International Destination Consulting has and continues to lead advice on fresh delivery strategies to support Ireland’s larger towns and cities*. Working with executives in Waterford, Naas, Limerick, Dublin and extensively in Cork City we have been helping to position these locations ready for future success.

The extension of the Living Cities project to pre 1915 is a nod for the need for a fresh urban agenda in Ireland but it appears to only benefit owner occupiers. We believe more could have been done in the Budget to help the revitalisation and economic development of Ireland’s town and city centres. In particular at this time in the economic and property cycle stronger interventions to help deliver the modern city and town centre office space that will be needed in the years to come to accommodate the businesses and jobs that form part of the Governments job strategy. Plus support Ireland’s struggling city, town centres and Main Streets.

Significant dispersed retail, residential and office development prior to 2008 has contributed to a major weakening of Ireland’s town and city centres. With negligible development since, the next decade needs a rebalance of economic activity towards the major city and town centres. These locations are where sustainable economic development, growth, jobs and wealth can be achieved in the short, medium and long term. This is especially the case where State Agencies own or control vacant or underused land and property.
Critically the types of business and jobs Ireland is attracting, whether Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) or indigenous, in the growth sectors is going to need more locations meeting specific business requirements. This demand from business is increasingly for office products located in dynamic, attractive city centre type areas with an excellent urban environment plus high quality accessibility. This also reflects the urban location preferences of the generation that is starting to increasingly dominate the workforce and which businesses are targeting. This is the demographic group known as Generation Y. In Ireland and other mature economies, a clear trend is for business and employee preferences for an attractive urban experience and offer to work, live and socialise in. For Ireland’s town and city centres having more centrally located office space will mean more “suits on the street”.

For example two modern 5,000 sqm office buildings in Cork City Centre might accommodate 1,000 employees. These are all people who can help contribute to more activity and vibrancy to support retailers and hospitality businesses across the City Centre, plus support more efficient delivery of public services such as public transport and car parking.

As the domestic and European economy starts a slow recovery, with negligible development of office space since 2008, the proposed financial support from NAMA will be crucial. This should be focused in unlocking modern office development in city and town centre locations in Dublin, Cork and elsewhere. So “shovel ready” jobs can be created for the construction sector and then potentially thousands more in the medium to longer term. At this stage in the economic and development cycle where viability is marginal at best, the public sector has to facilitate. This is the case in the UK regional cities, where Government supported initiatives such as Enterprise Zones, easier planning, Tax Incremental Financing, Rental Guarantees and Income strips are helping to bring forward city centre office space.”

*Colliers International Destination Consulting has led property, development and destination strategies for: A reappraisal of Cork Docklands (“Cork City Harbour”), Cork City Centre Strategy, Land & Property Delivery Issues in Cork, Limerick City Centre, Naas Development Strategy, Waterford City & County and Dublin Docklands, North Wall.