Jon Perks speaks to one of the men behind Birmingham's newest hotel in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter.
Launching a new hotel is a mammoth task at the best of times.
So to open a multi-million pound project in the current climate requires not just the financial and design know-how but the right product.
Bloc Hotel is a 73-bedroom ‘budget boutique’ offering on Caroline Street, just off St Paul's Square, which opened last weekend.
Aimed to offer guests ‘luxury on a budget’, the £60 a night Japanese pod-style rooms have the basic amenities with a little more design flair than the run-of-the-mill budget chains.
Designed by architects Bryant Priest Newman, the hotel is the brainchild of Boxbuild, a partnership of businessmen which includes Birmingham-born director Danny Jones.
“We are a group of individuals who were disappointed with what the hotel market had to offer,” he said.
“It seems to have been flooded with Travelodges and Premier Inns; for people who are into design and something a little extra, there’s nothing that caters for the market – unless you went to a five-star hotel, which absolutely has its marketplace, but for the discerning traveller we didn’t think there was anything out there.”
Each room is basic but smartly finished, with bed, wall fitted LED TV, wi-fi and wet room with powerful drench shower.
“I think out of the period of austerity in the UK market, customers want a value for money product and we are of the belief that people should be able to get value for money without compromising the offer of what they’re getting,” added Mr Jones.
“You can go out and get a budget offer which is okay, but we’ve attacked from a different angle and we believe we’re competing with those people without compromising on the aesthetics and the luxury of the place – except maybe on the size of the rooms, and that’s how we’ve managed to be competitive.”
Boxbuild have been developing the idea for a number of years, but the construction itself only took 25 weeks (as opposed to around 15 months for a traditional build) thanks to the innovative building techniques used. Each room unit was built off site and then brought to the Jewellery Quarter complete before being ‘stacked and wrapped’.
“The construction world has moved forward so quickly,” said Mr Jones. “Everyone thinks you have to go via a bricks and mortar route, whereas we try and be forward thinking on not only the building solution but the materials used, so we went for a modular volumetric build, which means we make these rooms off site and they’re shipped to site and craned into place in a Tetris/Lego type way so you’ve got the landscape and area ready to accept them and within a week you’ve got virtually the size and density of the building because you’ve got all the rooms stacked on site – which makes it eight months quicker than a traditional build.
“[We built here] because Birmingham is my hometown and a couple of the other guys are from Birmingham,” he continued.
“Birmingham has always been receptive to new ideas and it’s one of those places where there have always been innovative solutions; The Jewellery Quarter has got an urban village feel about it, a nice vibrant nightlife, close to the Bullring – I’m surprised there hasn’t been any other hotel in this area.
“We wanted to become part of the community but also make a statement with the building; it’s got gold windows and nice cladding so it’s fairly pleasing architecturally and hopefully something the Jewellery Quarter will be proud of.”