The 261-room hotel on the corner of John Dalton Street and Deansgate is part of the Lincoln Square masterplan. The hotel’s distinctive veiled facade has been turning heads since the project’s completion in May.
From office to hotel
The £20million scheme saw the redevelopment of the eight-storey John Dalton House office block.
Leonardo Hotels was originally planned to operate a 215-room hotel on the site and a planning application to partially demolish and partially convert the building was approved in 2016.
However, Leonardo pulled out of the project, allowing Qbic to step in and buy the building from previous owner 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 the design.
After Qbic’s plans were approved, contractor Bardsley was appointed to build the hotel, but pulled out in 2019 after the construction company and developer failed to agree on a “mutually acceptable way forward”.
MY Construction then took over as project manager.
The facade design features a distinctive golden veil, designed to “declutter the building”, according to Phil Doyle, director of 5plus.
“It is the device that pulls all the disparate elements together into one architectural statement and hides a multitude of structural grid sins,” he added.
The veil is made of bronze anodized aluminum and is intended to complement the materiality of Deansgate.
“The most important buildings in Deansgate are yellow sandstone – our building was designed as a modern version of that,” Doyle said.
Sustainability is a priority for Qbic and was a key driver in its decision to take over the site once Leonardo opted out of the project.
Around 60% of all carbon in a building is embodied in the foundations and framework, so retrofitting a building rather than demolishing it can significantly reduce a project’s carbon footprint.
Robert Alam, Managing Director of Qbic Manchester, said: “As a project it would have been so much easier and cheaper to have a new build rather than renovating the existing building. But we also knew that our carbon footprint would be higher.
“We’re not yet the greenest hotel, but we’re working to get there,” he added.
Not just a hotel
While it would have been easier on paper to knock John Dalton House down and start over, it was never a realistic option.
Both Byron Burger and Bill’s held emphyteutic leases on ground-floor dining units, agreements that stood in the way of Leonardo’s plans to demolish part of the building, according to Doyle.
Byron has since gone bankrupt and been replaced by the Qbic-owned Motley bar. Meanwhile, Bill has moved to nearby Spinningfields, leaving the ground floor unit overlooking John Dalton Street empty.
Motley, fitted out by hospitality interiors specialist Space Invader, got off to a good start when the first set of restrictions were lifted in April; the outdoor terrace was full within half an hour, according to Alam.
The GM declined to confirm or deny rumors that Qbic would build on Motley’s momentum and eventually take over the former Bills unit as well.
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 connect the three new developments that make up the Lincoln Square masterplan, drawn up by Planit IE, Layer.studio, 5plus and Glenn Howells Architects.
Short term outlook
Qbic has seen a gradual increase in weekend bookings since it opened in May, but weekdays remain subdued as the hotel market waits for business travelers to return.
Qbic is regularly between 80% and 90% full on Fridays and Saturdays, but during the week occupancy is currently at 40% as business travel continues its slow return.
“We believe that from September things will improve,” Alam said.
Pent-up demand for staycations, a pipeline full of delayed events and uncertainty over international travel put Manchester and its new hotel in pole position to benefit.
“There have been so many events postponed over the last year and a half and few have been cancelled, they are going to be rearranged for late 2021 into 2022. We hope the calendar of events is going to be packed.”
Click on any image to launch the gallery – all images via Qbic