The Copthorne Hotel is on death row in heaven – and when the end finally comes later this summer, anyone is unlikely to shed tears, including a TripAdvisor reviewer who said – perhaps unfairly after the Covid closures – that it was “stuffy” and that “the rooms are so old and smelly.”
The four-star black box was one of a pair of ‘twins’ that dominated the end of Broad Street from the late 1980s. But that says a lot about their building values than Chamberlain House on the Paradise Street side of the area enveloped by Paradise Circus Queensway was virtually demolished in a weekend in January 2018.
Before then, it seemed to take forever to bring the brutalist concrete structure of the Central Library and beyond to its knees, the area’s labyrinthine “underground” network not helping with the speed of demolition.
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Adrian Boult Hall, the Conservatory and Fletcher’s Walk shopping center were all tough to break, but the glass and beam construction of Chamberlain House was “easy meat” for wreckers by comparison.
And it will surely be for the Copthorne once the nearby block of 77 Paradise Queensway has been completely demolished to help make way for work on the 509ft tall Octagon building at the Summer Row end of Paradise to begin.
In retrospect, the Copthorne Hotel and Chamberlain House were the beginning of the beginning of the end for the Central Library – and once the library’s demise was confirmed, that meant they would have to die with it.
Construction work on the two boxes caused severe traffic disruption at the time due to the apparent need to seriously excavate the nearby road – prior to this Broad Street turned into Paradise Circus Queensway at ground level.
Before the road was lowered, a taxi driver’s video taken from his cab window in 1981 showed that the Central Library’s unique “upside-down ziggurat” shape had the potential to soar as spaceship.
In today’s world of digital effects and LED lighting, you have to wonder if the central library shape could have won it legions of new admirers for relatively little cost compared to the £188 million it took to build the Library of Birmingham before it was opened by Malala in 2013 (a cost so huge it can only open with limited hours).
But the Copthorne and Chamberlain house prevented that vision from becoming a reality. Once built, the Central Library began to fade from public view and the tide turned against it.
If only the central library could have been seen, maybe it would still be there now, but the Paradise developers argued that to make the whole site viable, it would have to go away.
And that meant, once again, that Birmingham’s final #Forward march would be at the expense of its own history, just as the Central Library was built to replace the city’s Victorian Library.
Like many places in Birmingham (even Wagamama on Ethel Street), the view from inside the hotel was often better than the other way around. To walk around the Copthorne now is to see a building that would have had few lovers. So yes, in the context of everything, it deserves to follow Chamberlain House into the abyss.
Ten years from now the younger generation will never know it was there and the statue of King Edward VII, returned to the city center in November 2010, will surely by then also have a better backdrop from its position on the corner of Baskerville Square . from Centenary Square.
Facilities and their classification
The website of one of the major hotels allows you to choose the dates you wish to stay, but then says: “Sorry, but the dates chosen for the Copthorne Hotel Birmingham are not available!”
The description of the facilities states: “The hotel has 212 well-appointed rooms and suites, 13 meeting rooms, a restaurant and a bar. Conveniently located near the International Convention Centre, National Indoor Arena and Birmingham New Street Station, the hotel is 20 minutes from the National Exhibition Center (NEC) and Birmingham International Airport.
“Situated in the center of Birmingham, overlooking Centenary Square, the hotel is beautifully situated close to a wide range of shopping, leisure attractions and the central business district of the UK’s second largest city.”
Trivago gave the Birmingham Copthorne an overall rating of 6.8/10 from 2,092 reviews. A positive review said the staff were “Always friendly and helpful, the staff at this hotel are known for their courtesy and attention to guest needs, even during the busiest times.”
On the negative side, it was noted that ‘Long shabby rooms for renovation – wWorn and outdated furniture, frayed carpets, lack of air conditioning and adequate heating/ventilation/fans, and annoyance with poorly functioning showerheads can make your stay less inviting.
TripAdvisor gave it a rating of 3.5 out of 2,457 reviews. The largest proportion of reviewers (753) said it was “average”, but more people (358) said it was “terrible” versus 291 who said it was “excellent”, while 556 said it was “very good” and 499 posted that it was “poor”.
Rae 2206 posted the latest review in August 2021 (for a stay in February) saying, “Very nice rooms and staff during Covid for a funeral. Good price but prob as it was very quiet.”
Manisha 1999 posted in May 2021: “Our stay at this hotel was really welcoming…all the staff we encountered were really accommodating, the room rate was also quite reasonable.”
In July 2021, Sophie P said: “I heard this hotel was closing and I’m not surprised. The rooms are so old and smelly that there are no spare sockets to use – l One is where the television is plugged in and the other is where a rickety old fan must be plugged in as the room is so stuffy.”
In response to another negative review from someone with this as the only TripAdvisor review to their name, manager Simon Doyle said the hotel was closing in July 2021 “with everyone losing their jobs… This is in no way an excuse for any issues you have encountered during your stay with us, but it is a very difficult time given the circumstances and we have taken the appropriate steps to resolve the issue directly with your party. “
At the time, he was running a hotel that was not only about to close, but also had to deal with 18 months of Covid issues and restrictions.
The video below shows how quickly the Copthorne’s sister building, Chamberlain House, was demolished in a weekend – a sign of things to come for the hotel later this year.
In an interview with BirminghamLive in 2018, Mr Doyle explained how frustrated people arriving by car that year were with the reconfigured road networks in the area. But he hoped Copthorne would be the contractor for the new hotel (152 beds, 17 floors, boutique) which would receive planning permission in January 2022 for the Paradise Street end of the redevelopment area.
What comes next
Planning permission was granted in January 2022 for a 152-bed, 17-story ’boutique’ hotel with a ‘sky bar’. It will be on the corner of the Paradise site where Fletcher’s Walk used to be and will overlook the A38 Queensway. A new office block called Three Chamberlain Square will be built along Paradise Street, filling the space between the hotel and Birmingham Town Hall.
The two new buildings will then join a new area of the public realm which will be called Ratcliff Square.
Rob Groves, Regional Development Manager with Paradise MEPC’s Development Manager, said: “The planning permission for the hotel means we can now move forward towards completing this next phase of the development which is already impacting the readability and connectivity of the city center.
“With One Centenary Way, Octagon and other iconic buildings to come, we continue to bring new state-of-the-art buildings to Birmingham, creating new jobs, skills and opportunities for the city and region. Plans to complete phase two will continue to grow and underline our holistic approach.”
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