The 261-bedroom hotel on the corner of John Dalton Street and Deansgate is part of the Lincoln Square masterplan. The hotel’s distinctive veiled façade has been turning heads since the project completed in May.
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From office to hotel
The £20m scheme saw the redevelopment of the eight-storey John Dalton House office building.
Leonardo Hotels was initially lined up to operate a 215-bedroom hotel at the site and a planning application to part-demolish and part-convert the building was approved in 2016.
However, Leonardo backed out of the project, allowing Qbic to step in and buy the building from former landlord Royal London.
A revised application for a 261-bedroom hotel that would see John Dalton House retained was then submitted in 2018, with 5plus Architects leading on design.
Following approval of Qbic’s plans, contractor Bardsley was appointed to build the hotel but stepped away in 2019 after the construction firm and developer failed to agree a “mutually acceptable way forward”.
MY Construction then took over as main contractor.
The façade design features a distinctive gold veil, designed to “declutter the building”, according to Phil Doyle, director at 5plus.
“It is the device that brings all of the disparate bits together as one single architectural statement and hides a multitude of sins in terms of the structural grid,” he added.
The veil is made of bronze anodized aluminium and is intended to complement Deansgate’s materiality.
“The most significant buildings down Deansgate are yellow sandstone – our building was conceived as a modern take on that,” Doyle said.
Sustainability is high up on Qbic’s agenda and was one of the main drivers behind its decision to pick up the site once Leonardo chose not to pursue the project.
Around 60% of all carbon within a building is embodied within the foundations and frame, so refurbishing a building rather than demolishing it can dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of a project.
Robert Alam, general manager of Qbic Manchester, said: “As a project it would have been so much easier and cheaper to have a new build rather than refurbishing the existing building. But equally we knew that our carbon footprint would be higher.”
“We are not the greenest hotel as yet but we are striving for it,” he added.
Not just a hotel
While it would have been easier on paper to knock down John Dalton House and start again, that was never a realistic option.
Byron Burger and Bill’s both held long leases on ground floor restaurant units, agreements that got in the way of Leonardo’s plans to knock down part of the building, according to Doyle.
Byron has since gone bust, and been replaced by Qbic-owned bar Motley. Meanwhile, Bill’s relocated to nearby Spinningfields, leaving the ground floor unit fronting John Dalton Street empty.
Motley, fitted out by hospitality interiors specialist Space Invader, got off to a flying start when the first round of restrictions lifted in April; the outdoor terrace was full inside half an hour, according to Alam.
The general manager refused to confirm or deny rumours that Qbic would build on Motley’s momentum and eventually take over the former Bills unit, too.
Tucked away behind the hotel, next to M&G’s The Lincoln and Worthington Properties’ 125 Deansgate, is Mulberry Square, a new urban space that could accommodate outdoor seating for the hotel.
The square, built around a distinctive plane tree, is intended to knit together the three new developments that comprise the Lincoln Square masterplan, drawn up by Planit IE, Layer.studio, 5plus and Glenn Howells Architects.
The short-term outlook
Qbic has seen a gradual increase in weekend bookings since its May opening, but weekdays remain subdued as the hotel market awaits the return of business travellers.
Qbic is regularly between 80% and 90% full on Fridays and Saturdays, but during the week occupancy is topping out at 40% at present as business trips continue their sluggish return.
“We feel that from September onwards things will improve,” said Alam.
Pent-up demand for staycations, a packed pipeline of delayed events and uncertainty over international travel place Manchester and its newest hotel in pole position to benefit.
“There have been so many events postponed over the last year-and-a-half and not many have cancelled, they are going to be rearranged for the back end of 2021 into 2022. We hope that the event calendar is going to be jampacked.”
Click any image to launch gallery – all images via Qbic