A Grand Don't Come For Free
And nor does a luxury hotel
... As Mike Skinner famously suggested. Chances are he wasn't talking about the massive £30 million renovation of Birmingham's Grand Hotel, which is 12 years in, with just two years to play. Having had a nosy around it last week, they may not want to take their feet off the gas as there's still plenty to be done. But, when finished, mark our words it's going to be sensational. Rooftop pool and everything.
"We've made some stunning discoveries since arriving on site," says principal surveyor James Slater. "This crate is from when the original hotel used to bottle its own water from two freshwater wells, which we've retained but are not currently using. We found about 1,000 bottles with 'Grand Hotel' beautifully embossed on them. Though mainly in storage, you can see some in the bottle display in the basement of [close-neighbour] The Alchemist."
"This space [above] was originally going to be a brewery, but latterly we thought about creating a distillery. Then we learned about the need for a "blast wall" within any distillery and thought, maybe not. Instead it's going to be a bar. Something beautiful and subterranean. Here you see only half of the space that our plans will eventually include but suffice to say it will be very different."
"There's been a lot of speculation about the rooftop pool — the balcony you see in the photo is to be extended and as part of the hotel's spa, a plunge pool will sit within it. The Principal operated hotel will also include 180 bedrooms and suites, as well as conference and banquet spaces, a restaurant and bar. Though I don't think you'll be able to call it 5-star due to necessary attributes, like car parking, that the star ratings system requires hotels to have. But it will be high-end luxury, and in some regards it's going to exceed your perceptions of 5-stars."
"Historically, buildings would be really dark. Lightwells — like the sizeable gap pictured here — are big openings in buildings that allow natural light to pass down all the way to the ground floor, containing glazed bricks that would reflect the light. Restoring it's been a huge job. It's all sealed in now and includes one of three lift shafts that we've installed.
"Dealing with an historic building is challenging because you never know what's behind one wall, and the next. None of it's straight, none of it's level — and trying to interface a new structure into that can be a real struggle. With such a confined site, getting new materials in has been another big issue. But we've done it meticulously — we had no choice. It's been much slower than the speed at which you'd usually hit a site like this."
"We haven't done anything with The Grand Staircase at the moment. Built in 1875, it probably wouldn't meet current regulations with regards to gaps in between it and the openness of it, but we'll change the way that the stairwell and the balustrade work and make this into a beautiful open staircase.
"It's been the trickiest job of my career — and probably ever — I don't think there are many jobs like this that come up. I can't wait to see it complete, now. To see people enjoy using it and the changes the development is bringing to the area, it gives me a real sense of pride."
'I Choose Birmingham' is a free weekly email about the best things to do in Brum. Subscribe below.