Located in Snowhill, at the heart of Birmingham’s city centre, the Royal Angus Hotel was acquired by SevenCapital in 2021 when it was halfway through a construction project to become a 188-bedroom Double Tree Hotel by Hilton.
Switch was asked to consult on the project and review the hotel’s feasibility, using our existing expertise in hospitality and asset management.
We immediately identified an opportunity in the Aparthotel market, with only 7% of Birmingham’s hotel rooms offering apartment spaces, the largest of which was more than eight years old.
We drew up a new feasibility, which changed the overall direction to developing Aparthotel Birmingham Snowhill.
In mid-2021, we began working with SevenCapital and the architects, The Building Design Group, to re-design the hotel, with the principal objective being to maximise the asset value with minimal loss of bedrooms.
The original design had:
However, the definition of an ‘Aparthotel’ is a longer stay model, meaning the requirement for meeting rooms and F&B facilities would actually be limited.
From our experience, hotel restaurants in the city centre always struggle when they are within walking distance of every restaurant offer that a customer could want. It was also clear that that the third floor of the hotel had some of the best features, including full size windows and the external terrace.
By removing the third floor facilities, we could create 38 apartments, 18 of which would have external gardens. Our re-design also meant the reception and lounge areas were moved to the ground floor.
This strategy allowed the hotel to offer 161 fully-fitted apartments with lounges and kitchens, with the smallest starting at 26m2, without making any changes to the overall building footprint.
We also challenged the standard of having a restaurant that operates for breakfast, which would likely sit empty at other key times in the day. Given the client demographic, this development will be the first Aparthotel to have a convenience store and bakery on-site, where guests can not only collect a ‘grab and go’ breakfast, but can also purchase whatever they require from the store, when they need it.
We believe that this will be the new standard for Aparthotels and Build to Rent developments.
Switch consultancy works in distinct phases, allowing the development owner to have a clear pathway:
1) Pre-Planning & Initial Feasibility
For the Royal Angus Hotel, we completed the massing drawing review and five-year financial feasibility, and developed the design in preparation for the re-planning discussions.
We see every client project as our own, and as we acted on behalf of the owner, we ensured that all spends had a clear return.
2) Post Planning
Working on the project development as part of the design team, we utilised our hotel and apartment experience to ensure the asset layout and apartment designs offered the perfect balance for future guests.
This process involved:
By completing a brand search with Accor, Marriot, Hilton and IHG Hotels, the owner had full confidence in the financial feasibility and desirability of the site. Our recommendation was to remain independent, due to Switch’s current presence in the city, and our firm belief that there could be a successful alternative F&B presence as part of an Aparthotel. Various Client Advisory Panels also meant that we had established clear client feedback, and we continually updated the financial feasibility throughout the development process.
Service and Back of House areas are often left to the last minute, but at an early stage, we recognised the operational challenges posed by the uphill structure of the building, which meant that half of the ground floor was below, and half above, ground level. This early intervention meant that the risk of later delays and additional costs were mitigated.
By working with our recommended supplier at the early stages of the design development, we had clear cost certainty for the project. To provide the ultimate flexibility for guests, we also worked closely with the design team to create a variety of stay options, resulting in nine apartment sizes and multiple variations to include connecting rooms.
With four successful hotels in Birmingham, we had access to a number of managers who we consulted with at various stages of the design. Our facilities manager has also been involved in the construction, to ensure that there will be a smooth handover when the hotel opens, and our marketing team conducted a full review of the original ‘Royal Angus’ name, resulting in the decision to launch the new ‘Aparthotel Birmingham Snowhill’.
3) 12 Months Pre-Opening
The breadth of our team’s experience ensured that a full asset strategy was in place from the outset, from branding to operations and facilities management.
Harj Mattu from SevenCapital said: "It has been fantastic working with the Switch team over the last three years. They have brought a refreshing entrepreneurialism and their ability to continually challenge the norm to add value has been a real benefit to SevenCapital. We are in the last stages of completing the hotel and I truly believe that having the Switch team by our side from the beginning has saved us significantly in the construction costs and time on site. There is a clear understanding between us that will ensure the hotel opens exactly as we both want it to. Aparthotel Birmingham Snowhill has been created to the specification we believe our customers and teams will require, and with a number of design features that will make it entirely unique.”
John Angus, managing director of Switch said: “This project has demonstrated the benefit of bringing an operator onto the development at the pre-planning stage. We have been invested in the hotel for three years and have been actively involved in every decision -even removing the Angus name! We continue to show our commitment to the project, having signed a long team lease, and I believe that Aparthotel Birmingham will be a real trend setter, not just for the city, but for the rest of the UK. I can’t wait to open the doors and drive our theories into reality, all of our teams are extremely excited and can’t wait to get going.”