A Tour of the Grand Hotel Restoration Project

The owners of the Grand Hotel building, Horton’s Estate Ltd,  descended from the family which originally built it, are in the process of restoring the Grand Hotel building. Closed in 2002 and with a doubtful future, the possibility of restoring the listed facade of the Grand Hotel in Colmore Row was first investigated by running trial repairs which were completed in October 2011. This confirmed that restoration was possible and viable.

Work began on the £3million restoration of the  facade  in October 2012 by Aldridge based Midland Restoration Limited with targeted completion in Summer 2014. Restoration is now to be extended to the whole of the Church Street side and round the back into Barwick Street (as below) adding £1/2 million to the cost. Brick and stone will be painted to match the other restoration.

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Current limit of scaffolding down Church Street viewed from Colmore Row

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View of Church Street and Barwick Street corner around which the restoration will be continued

. . . . .. . . Horton’s Chief Executive, Tony Green, says that it is doubtful that the costs will generate a commercial return. In any case, the people of Birmingham will benefit hugely from the visual aesthetics of the building and the uplift in Birmingham as an architectural city of note. One has to congratulate Horton’s Estate for restoring this building with this unselfish approach.

The restoration involves removal of all stonework paint and rendering, the replacement of defective stones and the repair and dressing of sound stones. The higher floors are in worse condition and so the stone work will largely be replaced. Conversely some of the stonework at ground and first floor levels is in sufficiently good condition as to be left as is. As a result, when work is completed and the scaffolding removed, the stonework at higher levels will appear to be in better condition. While the basic stone used was limestone, during the process of taking back the stone to to a sound interior brought to light the use of some red sandstone. Behind this is a course of  brickwork added after the stone and deliberately laid irregularly so as to provide a better key to hold the stonework course. Very few modern day metal ties were used just mortar between the two courses.

The extended repairs will involve the same techniques as the works that are already taking place.  Because the construction is thought to be different it is hoped that less stone replacement will be necessary. Brick and stone will be painted to match the other restoration.

Recently, I was lucky enough to be invited with three others to go inside the scaffolding and see the restoration work on this iconic building. We were accompanied by Tony Green, and the foreman.  We all donned hi viz jackets, steel toed boots and hard hats having been pre-warned that it was dusty and to wear jeans. We then climbed up ladders inside the scaffolding to the top, 7th floor (roof level) and worked our way down being shown the facade at different stages of repair. Our guides kept a close eye on where we walked as basically it was wooden plank covered scaffolding with gaps! The 45 strong team of stone masons were at work during our visit. 

Below is a gallery of photos I took on the day.

In addition it is hoped to spend a further £30 million to convert the original 230 rooms into 152 air conditioned ones, 8 new suites and nine new meeting rooms. There will be two new roof terraces in previously unused roof space and these will constitute a presidential suite. The splendid highly adorned Grosvenor Room, used for banqueting, I’m told is still in good condition.  This greater restoration work must be commercially viable but no deal has yet been signed for a company to run the hotel itself; it’s a case of the viability of creating a hotel that conforms to what a company wants . Only the retail units at ground level are virtually assured of take up. 

How to Get the most out of the photos.

Article by Geoff Caine

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