One of Durham City’s most striking buildings is being transformed into a £15m boutique hotel and Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill.
Work is well underway by Sunderland-based Brim Construction on the conversion of the historic Old Shire Hall in Old Elvet into an 83-bed four star Hotel Indigo, due to open early next year.
The distinctive red brick Victorian building had been derelict for around six years before it was bought by the hotel chain, who also run a successful branch in Newcastle.
Built in 1895, the building housed the original County Hall before more recently being used as administration offices by Durham University.
Luke Balcombe, from management company Intestate Hotels & Resorts, said the original period features in the Grade II-listed building, including stained glass windows, marble columns and glazed tiling, are in remarkably good condition and have been incorporated into the design of the hotel.
Each of the bedrooms, many of which offer views of the cathedral and castle, will also have a theme inspired by Durham, such as a room themed around collegiate life.
Luke said: “The building is so loved by the local community that we didn’t want it to lose its integrity, so we’ve retained all the original features. “Despite the building being empty for a number of years, it was in remarkable condition. People have taken a lot of interest in what we’re doing and they have stories about working here when it was council offices or handing in assignments when it was used by the university. The feedback we’ve had is that people are really pleased something is being done with the building.”
He added: “There’s such a rich history here and we keep coming across interesting features. We’re looking to work with historians from the university to learn more about the significance of the features as, at the moment, we’re relying on what’s available on the internet.”
Around 80 jobs will be created by the new venture which, as well as a 100-seater restaurant, will feature a coffee shop from Tinderbox coffee chain, a cocktail bar, fitness suite, meeting and conference space and the potential to host weddings.
He said: “There is a strong demand for hotels of this standard in Durham, but we won’t be coming to the market and under cutting the competition. We’ll be similarly priced as the hotels in this bracket and will let the customer decide.”