BHN talks to Robert Nadler about his company’s latest project, a 110-room hotel in St John’s Place, part of the £1.3 billion redevelopment of the former Granada Studios in Manchester.
• What made you want to open a hotel in Manchester?
“There are a number of reasons. Outside London, in England, it’s the number one city. We know the north-west from our long association with Liverpool, so it’s a part of the world we like enormously, and there’s a certain familiarity factor, as we already have a base in the region. As we look to expand nationally, which is something we’re aiming to do, it makes sense to start with that regional consolidation.”
“And Manchester is a phenomenal city, which has changed dramatically. In much the same way that London has become the premier world city over the last 20 years, Manchester has become very cosmopolitan. It’s dynamic and a great environment for young people, it has incredible universities – all the elements that the northern powerhouse concept is based around. If you’re looking to expand, Manchester has to be near the top of any list.”
“The second factor was the chance to work with Mike Ingall and Allied London. We are very much about community, about being an integrated part of an area – and Mike is a visionary, he doesn’t just develop buildings, he plans and develops communities. He’s a place-maker. It’s very exciting to work with somebody who has that kind of broad perspective. He looks for the right people to create the right atmosphere, with a outlook that takes in the whole estate, and what makes it special, not just one building. The opportunity to work with someone like that doesn’t come along every day, so we’re very excited.”
• In spite of the recent openings such as Hotel Gotham, Manchester still seems relatively undersupplied in terms of good independent hotels.
“This is another reason why it’s good positioning for us. There are a lot of hotels in Manchester – in terms of room numbers, it’s getting to the stage where you’ve got to ask how many more hotels are needed. But what makes Manchester an exciting opportunity for us is that most of the hotels being built tend to be big brands, who are in danger of building too many hotels, too close to each other.”
“That leaves opportunities for smaller independents. Gotham is fabulous, I love what they’ve done there, as well as the King Street Town House, these are wonderful hotels, which is reflected in the room rates they are getting. They’re getting London rates in Manchester, because what they have produced is London quality. They’ve shown that if you produce the right levels of sophistication and service, there are people willing to pay for it.”
• St John’s Place will be a 55-storey tower. What can you tell us about the building itself?
“It’s going to be a beautiful building. Simpson Haugh are a highly regarded architectural practice, and the look and feel will be in keeping with a world city, rather than just another building in a provincial city. For us, it’s going to be very exciting to stretch ourselves with a state-of-the-art new-build in a high rise building.”
• Where else in the UK are you looking for opportunties?
“We’ve looked at sites in Edinburgh. Regardless of Brexit and the independence issue, Edinburgh is an extraordinary and wonderful world city. We’re also looking at cities where it’s perhaps more difficult to get in to, such as Oxford, Cambridge and Bath. I like Bristol, I was at school there and it’s a city close to my heart. York is also special. So they are the main ones, but we will consider other opportunities, particularly if, as is the case with Manchester, it involves other factors like a really special development with fabulous architecture and master planning, such at St John’s. That can make you look at places in a way you hadn’t done before.”