The fire-ravaged former Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter could be converted into apartments, restaurant and bar as part of an ambitious Â£ 17million plan.
The Cathedral Yard building, which was badly damaged by the flames in October 2016, was acquired by South West Lifestyle Brands in August 2020 after being put on the market for Â£ 2million.
The company has now announced proposals to significantly restore the 18th-century Grade II listed building by creating 23 luxury apartments with a mix of two and three-bed apartments on the top four floors, including three of two duplex apartments. floors.
The ground floor would include a large restaurant, a bar to replace the Well House Pub and two reception rooms. One of the reception rooms will offer visitors a chance to see some of the building’s unique historical fabric, exposed by fire, with an interior courtyard with the brick spine walls, which will be stabilized, and a Roman wall newly exhibited illuminated by natural daylight. The new apartments would retain as much heritage as possible and would have been designed to highlight historical features.
The plans, prepared by Exeter-based real estate developer Akkeron Group, commit to restoring the historic building to its former glory by reconstructing the original facade and exterior, and retaining as much of the building’s history as possible.
The program will create 180 full-time jobs in Exeter during the construction phase and 44 full-time jobs in commercial activity when completed.
The Royal Clarence was of historical significance with the main building dating from 1769, and contains several structures from medieval times and which have had various uses.
Much of the building was destroyed after a fire in neighboring premises spread to the hotel on October 28, 2016, and a significant part of the remaining part was subsequently demolished.
Owner at the time of the fire, Andrew Brownsword Hotels, assured it would be rebuilt after hell and was granted building permission in 2017 to create a new hotel, including an additional upper floor. But work did not advance and in August 2020 the site was sold to South West Lifestyle Brands.
Development of the agreed replacement hotel has proven to be significantly unsustainable, with an expected loss of around Â£ 17million, further impacted by the recent introduction of a new five-star hotel a few hundred yards away.
South West Lifestyle Brands said the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has strengthened this position, and the historic nature of the building, coupled with the extensive damage caused by the fire, means its restoration will be a particularly complex project, on architectural, technical and commercial plans.
South West Lifestyle Brands, indirectly owned by former Plymouth Argyle chairman James Brent and his wife, said they have conducted more than 12 months of in-depth consultations with conservation architects, heritage consultants, Historic England and the council municipal council of Exeter.
On December 1, it launched a public consultation, before submitting a full town planning application and a classified construction permit application to Exeter City Council in early 2022.
Mr Brent, Chairman of Akkeron, said: ‘We are delighted to share our plans to breathe new life into the historic and much-loved Royal Clarence building in Exeter, which the city looks forward to restored after five years of neglect. following the terrible fire in 2016.
âOur proposals envision the Royal Clarence to be carefully restored to become a focal point in the heart of the Exeter Cathedral courtyard, with a publicly accessible ground floor offering a high quality restaurant and bar.
Business Live’s Southwestern business reporter is William Telford. William has over a decade of experience reporting on the business scene in Plymouth and the South West. It is based in Plymouth but covers the entire region.
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“We are also focusing on preserving as much as possible of the historic fabric of the building, restoring the famous facade to its former glory, so that the Royal Clarence will look a lot like it was before the fire and form a focal point. in the center of Exeter, as an asset the city can be proud of and a legacy for future generations. Our proposals have been prepared with the greatest respect for this building, its location and the special place it occupies in the city. I thank Historic England and Exeter City Council for their advice over many months.
An interactive website has been launched where people can view detailed plans in a virtual exhibit and leave their comments, as well as submit questions to the project team. The program is led by the KTA architectural firm, based in Exeter. A two-day public exhibit will be held in the HG Wells Hall at The Mount, 72 Paris Street, Exeter, EX1 2JY from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday December 7 and Wednesday December 8, so people can see the proposals, hear more about the program, ask questions of the in-person project team and share their thoughts.