Jonathan Schofield on a concept hotel set to reinvigorate a concrete lump in Manchester
Barry Sternlicht looks happy in every picture you see on the internet. He’s a hotelier who also happens to be a billionaire and also happens to look like every Youtube advert for older men who want to look buff. His teeth are so white you probably don’t need the lights on even in the darkest night. He could only be American, he’s just too wholesome and healthy looking to be a 61-year-old Brit.
'In a Treehouse you leave the everyday and enter a world of your own imagination.' Eh?
Bazza's bringing his substantial cash to Manchester to spruce up (forgive the pun) the hotel scene with a Treehouse Hotel due to open in 2023. This will occupy the present shabby mess that is the concrete lump from hell called the Renaissance Hotel at the northern end of Deansgate. Sternlicht, according to Wikipedia who in turn quote the Forbes rich list, is worth $3.2bn making him the 260th richest person in the US. No wonder he looks so happy.
Sternlicht's company is Starwood Capital Investments which was previously behind the Principal Hotel renovation before it was sold on. Now called The Kimpton Clocktower Hotel that property is part of the vast IHG Group.
The plans for the Renaissance site are being developed in partnership with Property Alliance Group and mark the first phase of a £200m redevelopment of the site. This will be the second Treehouse Hotel in the UK after one in London - see the main picture above.
The press release is a right gusher:
"Treehouse Hotels celebrates the joy of youth, of freedom, of fun, of dreams, and friends, real and imaginary. In a Treehouse, you leave the everyday and enter a world of your own imagination. The wondrous, childhood feeling of climbing into a treehouse and making up your own rules. Designed to appeal to the youthful spirit in all of us, Treehouse Hotel Manchester will be fun, fresh, and fabulous, inspired by life’s joys."
Crikey. Run that one by me again would you?
The hotel will have 216 rooms. There will be a "treehouse canopy" and guests will be "drawn down a path with an abundance of dappled light and the natural scent of pitch pine, reminiscent of entering a secret forest." People will be encouraged to carve their name in a "living wooden art piece" and there will be "stepping-stones in lift lobbies" while the gym will feature "custom-designed space hoppers".
Sustainability is a key aim, they say, with reclaimed and recycled materials used in the construction of the building and furniture, living green walls and a kitchen garden harvesting rainwater. There will also be honey produced by the hotel’s own rooftop apiary.
It does sound tremendous fun. There will be a top-floor restaurant and bar with "uninterrupted views of the city" plus a "crowning rooftop venue".
To achieve this the designers, London’s 93ft (that’s their name), will have their work cut out because they will be working within the existing structure. This was built as an office in 1972 before conversion into a hotel. The building was part of the aptly named Shambles development by architects Cruikshank and Seward. This used to squat like an architectural toad on both sides of Deansgate before the eastern side was demolished after the 1996 IRA bomb.
There is one CGI doing the rounds of the exterior of the Treehouse Hotel which looks faintly ridiculous. No doubt the resulting building and structure will be much better, space hoppers and all. What all this reveals though is continuing confidence in major Manchester city centre developments.
"We are thrilled to set roots in the city of Manchester,” said Starwood Capital Group Chairman and CEO Barry Sternlicht of Treehouse Hotels. This may or may not have been a pun. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt.