AFTER 70 years in Ennismore, on the outskirts of Cork City, the Dominican Fathers are selling their much-loved retreat centre, a unique Georgian property on c25acres, for €3.25m.
On a prime slice of land overlooking Cork Harbour, and with good residential accommodation, there’s strong potential to turn Ennismore House and grounds into a successful commercial venture.
Private sector operators housing Ukranian refugees may see it as a ready-made income stream at a time when the State is struggling to accommodate those fleeing the war in Ukraine. The house has 39-bedrooms, numerous reception and conference rooms and ancillary dining and bathroom facilities, as well as coach houses and courtyard (10 buildings) totalling 463 sq m (4,982 sq ft) and a gate lodge (55 sq m/595 sq ft).
These buildings “comprise an attractive refurbishment opportunity for commercial/residential use” said selling agent Roger Keogh of Avison Young.
The gate lodge is at the entrance to the property while the courtyard and coach houses are accessed off Colmcille Avenue. The main house, off the Middle Glanmire Road, has been altered and extended over the years, but many of the original features remain.
The Dominican Fathers, who bought Ennismore in 1952, are moving out and “re-grouping to fewer locations” according to a press statement. About half a dozen Brothers live at the Montenotte retreat centre which has been visited by generations of school children over the years. The Brothers have also operated outreach programmes for the disadvantaged in the community, including for asylum seekers and those struggling with addiction issues. They have also offered sanctuary to Ukrianian and Syrian refugees. In fact the Brothers have expressed reservations about leaving Ennismore and severing long-nurtured links with the local community. The decision to sell was made by the 2021 Provincial Chapter of the Irish Province of Dominicans.
There have been calls also for the lands (10 hectares) to be bought by Cork City Council for use as a public park – a relative rarity in this part of the city. The Brothers opened up Ennismore to locals for recreation use during the pandemic, where good use was made of its tree-lined walking trails.
The area around Ennismore is zoned for a park under the new city development plan and would immediately serve local residents in Mayfield, Montenotte and the north side of Cork city.
Whoever buys Ennismore will acquire an impressive, two-storey over basement Georgian property, measuring 2,418 sq m (26,024 sq ft) set in mature parkland.
Given its obvious attractions its genesis is unsurprising – like many of the imposing homes built north east of the city in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it was designed for members of a growing merchant class. At a time of burgeoning city trad , when the River Lee was the source of wealth, these Merchant Princes were keen to watch their ships come in, literally and figuratively. The family that built Ennismore, or East View, as it was then known, did so in 1824 with a view to keeping an eye on their harbour cargo. They were the Leycesters, who are thought to have also built Vosterberg, another Montenotte mansion.
The tradition of Cork business dynasties settling in the area has continued. The nearby Woodlands Estate is home to one of the Crosbies, founders of the Irish Examiner.
Mr Keogh says the Ennismore site has “spectacular views of Cork city and beyond” and has “enormous development potential, subject to planning permission, for conversion to alternative uses including hotel/leisure centre/conference centre (also available at the nearby Clayton Hotel Silver Springs), or possibly a nursing home, or an educational/training centre.
“Located on the edge of suburbia, the lands also offer future development opportunities subject to re zoning and planning permission,” Mr Keogh added.
Mr Keogh was also the agent involved, albeit with a different agency, in selling off 4.95 acres of land adjacent to Ennismore, also owned by the Dominicans, in 2017. It sold for c€2.5m (guide was €2m) and has been developed for by builders Murnane and O’Shea, as a mix of 54 social and affordable housing units, at what is now called Crann Darach.