Plans to get Birmingham’s Grand Hotel up and running again have suffered a major blow after developers were unable to agree a deal with builders.
The historic Colmore Row building, which is undergoing extensive facade work, is no closer to returning as a hotel despite interest from operators and detailed designs being drawn up.
Tony Green, chief executive of Hortons’ Estate, which has owned the building since it built it in 1875, said there had been a disappointing response after the work went out to tender.
He said a single construction firm would need to oversee an 18-month project to make the scheme viable, but the antiquated nature of the building has put off some contractors.
Installing lifts, broadband and IT infrastructure into the building, as well as modernising it for the 21st century, is proving difficult.
However, Mr Green said the firm had not given up hope of delivering a luxury hotel with 152 rooms and eight new suites at the architectural gem, where Malcolm X gave his last speech in England.
He said: “We have been working away trying to get the designs of the hotel finalised to a point where we can send them out to builders and start getting it built. We managed to get to that point and we have been receiving feedback from builders, and it hasn’t been encouraging.
“I was imagining from that process we’d get someone to come forward for all the heritage work, the roof, the electrics and everything would be finished, but that wasn’t the reaction from builders.
"For it to be practically achievable, to open a hotel in 15 to 18 months time, we would really need all the jobs to be done at the same time.”
He added: “We have now started the process of going back over every line of the quotes to see where we go from here. Whatever, it means a longer process.”
Hortons’ is investing £3.5 million to restore the hotel’s facade, which will eventually see 400 feet of scaffolding in Colmore Row removed by September when the work is complete.
Plans for the new hotel, which were drawn up by architect Berman Guedes Stretton, include restoring its grand staircase, renovating the famous Grosvenor Suite and moving its main entrance on to Church Street.
Mr Green said despite the setback, Hortons’ was not working on a ‘plan B’ but rather redoubling efforts to find a solution.
He said: “We haven’t reached that point yet. We have always believed the best thing for the Grand is to bring it back as The Grand Hotel. We think its location and architecture is ideally suited for that.
“Obviously at some point reality bites, but we haven’t got to that point yet – we will keep working away to try to do it.”
He added: “We thought we had made significant progress in the last half of last year, and thought we were near to a point where we had a practical, buildable solution.
“But the really bad news would be if we had given up – and that is certainly not the case.”
The Grand was one of the Victorian landmarks which led to Birmingham being described as “the most artistic town in England” in the late 19th century.
In its glory years the Grade II*-listed hosted a number of notable figures with King George VI, Winston Churchill, Neville Chamberlain, Charlie Chaplin, James Cagney and Joe Louis among those to stay there.