Hotel deal for Liverpool landmark

Royal Insurance building, city centre

A deal has been completed to bring Liverpool’s derelict Royal Insurance building back into use – with a pioneering hotel operator signed-up.

The city council has completed the purchase of the freehold of the historic landmark, at the corner of North John Street and Dale Street in the city centre, for £1.95 million – levering in £18 million of investment from Runcorn-based developer Ashall Property Ltd.

And in a high profile first for the city, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. have announced that they will be bringing their design-led Aloft brand to the building.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “The Royal Insurance building is an important landmark in the heart of our city, with outstanding architectural and historical value. It has lain derelict for too long and we are determined to bring it back into meaningful use.

“Our deal with Ashall and our success in signing-up Aloft gives us a fantastic opportunity to breathe new life into the building. It’s a great example of how we are working with the private sector to attract new investment, preserve our heritage and reduce the number of buildings at risk in our city, while boosting our hotel offer.”

Launched in 2008, Aloft Hotels rank among TripAdvisor’s ‘Top 25 Trendiest Hotels in the US and around the world.’ Created to shake up the traditional mid-market hotel sector, they feature urban-influenced, modern design at an affordable price.

The 116-room, 4*, boutique-style Aloft Liverpool will feature the brand’s signature high ceilings, oversized windows, comfortable platform beds, walk-in showers and atmospheric public spaces. It will also offer a re:chargeSM fitness centre and re:fuelSM by Aloft, a 24-hour grab and go deli-style café, in addition to five creative spaces for meetings and presentations.

Aloft

The Grade II* listed Royal Insurance building has been unoccupied for 20 years, leading to it being placed on the National Buildings at Risk Register. Ashall Property Ltd aims to start building work on the gold-domed building in early May, completing work in late 2014. It is estimated that 150 construction jobs will be created during the build, with over 50 full time equivalent jobs created once the hotel opens.

The conversion scheme for the building has been designed by Liverpool architect Falconer Chester Hall (FCH). Balfour Beatty is the main contractor. English Heritage are supporting the scheme with a grant of £297,500.

Mark Ashall, Director at Ashall Property Ltd, said: “FCH has designed a scheme which complements and preserves the great heritage of this property and Ashall Property is both excited and proud to have the opportunity to regenerate an iconic building and provide Liverpool with a vibrant, design-led hotel complete with restaurant and meeting space.

“It has been a highly challenging project – in a difficult market – and the signing of contracts this month is the culmination of two years of dedication and commitment by all those involved. We would like to record our appreciation of their contribution and understanding of the constraints surrounding the renovation of a Grade II* listed building and their willingness to work around these to make this happen.

“We are indebted to Liverpool City Council for assisting with this project from the outset and to English Heritage for their continuing support. Similarly, this project couldn’t have progressed without Ingenious Media Investments Ltd or HSBC who have worked with us over a long period of time to bring the deal to fruition.”

Roeland Vos, President, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Europe, Africa and Middle East, said: “Together with North John Street Op Co Ltd and Ashall Property, we are delighted to debut our first Starwood hotel in Liverpool. We see great opportunities to grow our Aloft portfolio in markets such as the UK where there is a strong demand for affordable yet stylish, cutting-edge hotel brands.”

The latest figures show that Liverpool’s work to bring historic buildings back into use is having a real impact. Only four per cent of the city’s buildings are now on the at risk register, compared to around seven per cent nationally.

Liverpool City Council’s Director for Regeneration, Nick Kavanagh, said: “Regeneration continues to gather pace in Liverpool despite the tough economic times, and this is another fantastic success story for our city.

“We’re delighted we’ve been able to unlock this important investment in one of our major city centre assets, to protect its future and deliver a first class hotel. I’m looking forward to work getting underway.”

Aloft double room

Glasgow-based BDL Management, with 47 hotels currently under management, will be responsible for the day- to-day running of the hotel.

Ross Morrow, Chief Technical Officer at BDL Management, commented “We are thrilled to be involved in the Royal Insurance building project which has spanned three years and we are extremely grateful to the hard work of our partners, Ashalls, Ingenious, Liverpool City Council and Starwood in getting the deal over the line. We are delighted to be granted Starwood’s first franchise in the UK and are confident that with such an iconic building and modern hotel brand in such a great part of the city that we have all the ingredients for a very successful hotel.”

Henry Owen-John, Planning and Conservation Director for the North-West at English Heritage, said: “English Heritage is delighted to support this project to bring the Grade II* Royal Insurance building back into use with a grant of £297,500. The planned conversion scheme will enable the regeneration of this great historic landmark so that it can once again play a prominent role in the life of the city.”