REVIEW | GM Building of the Year shortlist: King Street Townhouse

The second of four projects shortlisted as Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Building of the Year 2016, Place North West visits city centre hotel King Street Townhouse.

There’s unlikely to be a businessperson working in Manchester who hasn’t set foot in King Street Townhouse. Since the ‘baby grand’ hotel opened on Booth Street last year, it has superseded sister hotel Great John Street as location of choice for any and all networking events, at times making it easy to be in two places at once as you dash from drinks in the bar, to a barbecue on the terrace.

Before Eclectic Hotels converted the grade two-listed building, it was just one of many faded Victorian properties lining the area around Albert Square, largely ignored and unappreciated. Now, the success of the hotel speaks for itself, and the spruced-up façade has brightened a previously uninspiring street.

In addition to a restoration of the listed exterior, the project by AEW Architects saw a rebuild of the interior which had been previously stripped of all original features for use as an office. An additional two storeys have also been added to the roof.

It is the internal design and hotel fit-out which makes the scheme come into its own. The layout of the corridors and rooms gives a cosy feel, and the choice of materials has retrofitted a sense of history, with parquet floors and iron railings that look like they’ve been in place for a century.

All of Eclectic’s hotels define themselves as ‘boutique’, and Townhouse is no different. Fit-out is everything; across the much-publicised rooftop pool, private bar and terrace, and 40 individually designed bedrooms. Oak writing desks, retro radios, and engraved metal signage show the design was executed with care. There is no doubt that a stay in King Street would be a very comfortable one, especially considering the mattresses were shipped from Egypt at £2,000 a pop.

What lets the Townhouse down is the Tavern bar and restaurant. All the elements are there; dark wood, tiles, leather, an expensive bar and a secret wine list. Yet the finish lacks the flair seen elsewhere in the hotel, and the food and its delivery leave much to be desired.

No matter, as for us property types visiting the hotel, the place we spend most of our time is the idiosyncratic lift, which stops at every floor perhaps with the express purpose of squashing the suits in with damp residents in dressing gowns fresh from the infinity pool. Jealous, us?

  • The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce will announce the Building of the Year at its annual property and construction dinner on 20 October
  • The judging panel consists of Steve Burne of AEW and vice-president of Chamber, Phil Cusack, chairman of Chamber, John Atkins of Atkins Property, Jill Bancroft of Brown & Bancroft, Dan Crossley of WHR, Liz Everett of Seddons, Duncan Firth of Walker Sime, Stephen Gleave of Turley Associates, Stewart Grant of Grant Associates, Karen Hirst of Eric Wright Group, John Marland of Bruntwood, Professor Peter McDermott of University of Salford, Nancy McGuire of Addleshaw Goddard, Ian Powell of Pinningtons, Andrew Turner of Interserve, David Williams of Turner & Townsend, Steve Williamson of F Parkinson, Graham Wilson of Parker Wilson

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