A year on from planning permission being granted for a £30 million scheme to redevelop Birmingham’s Grand Hotel, Graeme Brown talks to its owners about progress.
Birmingham waited a decade for a saviour to ride to the rescue and return the Grand Hotel to its former glory – but the day the first guests check in is still some way off.
Hortons Estates is transforming the derelict building in Colmore Row into a luxury hotel with 152 rooms and eight new suites after getting the green light a year ago.
But while Hortons chief executive Tony Green said major progress had been made to restore its listed facade, he admitted work on the development had been slow – and a deal on an operator for the hotel had yet to be finalised.
Mr Green said the complicated project was always going to take time – not helped by a tough economic climate.
He said: “We have always made it clear that there are lots of stages to go through. We have moved through a number of them that people said would never happen. We got planning consent and the facade will be finished next summer.
“The next stage is to start the technical work to reopen the hotel and we are still working on getting to that point.
“We have said from the start that this is a very complicated project. It is difficult to create an up-to-date hotel from a Grade II* listed building.
“The economy isn’t great at the moment but it is no easier or more difficult than it has been all the way along.
“People said nothing would happen here. That is not right – we have made great progress – but there is a lot of hard work still required to get to a position where we are able to make an announcement about starting on the hotel.”
The Post previously reported that one of the biggest hotel brands in the world was waiting in the wings for the development – but a deal has yet to be finalised.
Mr Green said it was always “a massive project to undertake” and the company was prepared to take time to ensure it is completed properly.
The commitment is a far cry from when the hotel faced partial demolition nearly a decade ago after its previous operator had financial troubles and the building fell into increasing disrepair.
The crumbling facade along with the magnificent Grosvenor Suite, were listed following a campaign led by the Victorian Society.
The new designs, drawn up by architect Berman Guedes Stretton, include restoring the grand staircase, renovating the Grosvenor Suite and moving its main entrance around the corner into Church Street.
Offices and shops have remained in use, but the hotel has remained empty with safety netting along the length of the building to protect pedestrians from the risk of falling masonry.
Mr Green added: “We have got the funding available. Finding the money necessary to do the scheme is something that we could do, but like any business, each project that we look at has to make a commercial return, and that is the same for the Grand as anyone else. It has always been the case that you have got to look much longer-term with the Grand than some other projects, but again, two years ago a lot of people were saying it was never going to happen.
“We are taking a long-term view of it.”