shirehall external (002)One of the region’s leading architectural practices Howarth Litchfield (HL), in its role as project architect, has gone out to tender to appoint a main contractor for the £15 million refurbishment of the Grade 2 listed Old Shire Hall in Durham City centre.

With plans to create a four star, 81-bed Hotel Indigo – a boutique brand from InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) – together with a 150-cover Marco Pierre White Steak House Bar and Grill, the completed project will make a substantial contribution to Durham’s attractiveness as a tourism and leisure destination.  It is envisaged that 60 new jobs will also be created.

The developer behind the scheme is Elvet Development Ltd (EDL) a joint venture created by Kevin Brown, a commercial property developer and his business partner, Shaun Crawley.

HL was selected for the project through recommendation and because of the practice’s extensive experience in the hotels and conservation sectors as well as its local knowledge.

With a remit spanning architecture, conservation architecture, interior design, building surveying and project planning, HL’s role as project architect and principal designer has seen its building surveyors carrying out detailed dimensional and condition surveys of the building so that accurate plans could be drawn up for the interior arrangement of the hotel together with schedules of vital repair and conservation work.

At the same time, the HL Interiors team have worked with IHG to develop the three ‘pillars’ of the interior design concept required by the Indigo brand. The interior themes of the hotel’s rooms are to be based on the neighbourhood story of Old Shire Hall. The team has focused on key areas that play an important part in Durham City which are the ‘Cathedral’, and the’ University’. The University has been split into two themes: ‘University 1- collegiate’ which focuses on the studious side drawing inspiration from the Great Library and the colleges and ‘University 2- intellectual excellence’ which concentrates on cosmology and the scientific discovery of the campus.

Speaking about the project, Gordon Brewis, HL director, said:  “We were thrilled to be appointed to help renovate and refurbish such an historic building, right on our doorstep, which contains some fine examples of Victorian architecture

“To reach the tender stage, we have had to work with a wide range of consultants – structural, acoustic, fire and mechanical and electrical engineering – to translate the concept design into a comprehensive set of tender documents.

“We are in daily dialogue with IHG and the local planning authority to not only interpret the dynamic Indigo Hotel brand within the unique context of an historic building, but also over various detailed design issues, such as how we can add a new entrance lobby extension to this Grade 2 listed building.  To date, we have agreed a contemporary design i to complement the existing building and have also held discussions with Interstate Hotels and Resorts, who will manage Hotel Indigo, over the practical issues around day-to-day operations.

“Old Shire Hall is a fascinating historic building with many original features.  We will continue to work closely with the appointed contractor and the local authority’s conservation team to ensure all the conditions of the planning and listed building consents are followed.”

The refurbished Indigo Hotel will give a welcome lift to this part of Old Elvet where Old Shire Hall, originally built as the headquarters of Durham County Council, has stood vacant since late 2012. The hotel frontage will be cleaned and restored, new lighting installed and a landscaping scheme involving new street furniture and trees will be developed.

Kevin Brown of EDL is pleased with the way the development is shaping up and believes it will attract up to 21,000 new visitors to the city annually – making a major contribution to addressing the need for high quality accommodation in the city centre.  He said:

“HL has provided a tremendous service in helping us to deliver this exciting scheme. Its interior designers, architects, and building surveyors have coordinated this complex project very effectively and provided just the right mix of detailed technical knowledge and inspirational design. We are looking forward to working together on the challenging construction phase of the project to deliver a stunning local interpretation of the world famous Hotel Indigo experience.”

Tender documents will be issued soon with start on site anticipated in September. The refurbishment is expected to take around 12 months to complete with the hotel scheduled for handover in September 2017 and fit out taking place during October.