City hotel with ‘old’ and ‘stuffy’ rooms doomed for demolition after more than 40 years of service

The Copthorne Hotel is on Death Row in Paradise – and when the end finally comes later this summer it’s unlikely that anyone will be shedding any tears, not least one TripAdvisor reviewer who said – perhaps unfairly after Covid lockdowns – that it was “stuffy” and that “the rooms are so old and smell.”

The four-star black box was one of a pair of ‘twins’ which dominated the end of Broad Street from the late 1980s onwards. But it says much for their construction values that Chamberlain House on the Paradise Street side of the area enveloped by Paradise Circus Queensway was all but demolished in a weekend back in January, 2018.

Before that, it seemed to take forever to bring the Brutalist concrete structure of the Central Library to its knees and beyond, the labyrinthine ‘underground’ network of the area not helping with the speed of demolition.

Read more:Paradise in Birmingham now worth more than £1 billion – here’s everything built there so far

The Adrian Boult Hall, Conservatoire and Fletcher’s Walk shopping centre were all tough nuts to crack, but the glass and girders construction of Chamberlain House was ‘easy meat’ the demolition men by comparison.

And so it will surely be for the Copthorne once the neighbouring 77 Paradise Queensway block has been completely felled to help to make way for work on the 509-ft tall Octagon building at the Summer Row end of Paradise to get underway.

Entrance to the former Bugis Street Brasserie, a Singaporean-Chinse restaurant inside the Copthorne Hotel

In retrospect, the Copthorne Hotel and Chamberlain House were the start 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.

Work to build the two boxes caused serious traffic disruption at the time because of the apparent need to seriously scoop out the neighbouring road alongside – prior to that, Broad Street used to turn into Paradise Circus Queensway at ground level.

Before the road was lowered, a taxi driver’s video shot from his cab window in 1981, showed the Central Library’s unique ‘upside down ziggurat’ shape to have to the potential for rising up like a spaceship.

In today’s world of digital effects and LED lighting, you have to wonder if the Central Library’s shape could have won it legions of new admirers for relatively little expense compared with the £188 million it took to build the Library of Birmingham ahead of its opening by Malala in 2013 (a cost so vast it can only open with limited hours).

But the Copthorne and Chamberlain House prevented that vision from ever becoming a reality. Once they were built, the Central Library began to disappear from public view and the tide turned against it.

If only the Central Library could have been seen to be seen, perhaps it would still be there now, but the developers of Paradise argued that to make the entire site viable it would have to go.

And that meant, once again, Birmingham’s latest march #Forward would be at the expense of its own history just like the Central Library was built to replace the city’s Victorian library.

July 23, 2002: Food being served at the Copthorne Hotel in Birmingham City Centre
July 23, 2002: Food being served at the Copthorne Hotel in Birmingham City Centre

Like many places in Birmingham (even Wagamama on Ethel Street), the view from inside the hotel looking out 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.

In ten years’ time, the younger generation will never know it was there at all and the King Edward VII statue, returned to the city centre in November 2010, will surely by then also have a better backdrop from his position in the Baskerville Square corner of Centenary Square.

Facilities and how it rated

One leading hotels’ website lets you choose the dates you might want to stay but then says: “Sorry but the dates chosen for the Copthorne Hotel Birmingham are not available!”

It’s description of the facilities says: ‘The hotel boasts 212 well-appointed bedrooms and suites, 13 meeting rooms, restaurant and bar. Ideally located for the International Convention Centre, National Indoor Arena and Birmingham New Street train station, the hotel is 20 minutes from the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) and Birmingham International Airport.

July 23, 2002: Food being served at the Copthorne Hotel in Birmingham City Centre
July 23, 2002: Food being served at the Copthorne Hotel in Birmingham City Centre

‘Situated in the Middle of Birmingham, overlooking Centenary Square, the hotel is beautifully located close to a wide range of shops, leisure attractions and the Central Business District of the United Kingdom’s second city’.

Trivago gave the Birmingham Copthorne an overall rating of 6.8/10 from 2,092 reviews. One positive comment said staff were ‘Always friendly and helpful, this hotel staff is known for their courtesy and attention to guest needs even during busier times.’

On the negative side, it was noted that ‘Shabby Rooms Long Overdue for Renovation – worn and outdated furniture, frayed carpeting, lack of air-conditioning and adequate heating/ventilation/fans, and the displeasure of poorly working shower heads may make your stay less inviting’.

The Copthorne Hotel awaiting demolition after 77 Paradise Queensway (right) whilst the 13-storey One Centenary Way is being built behind
The Copthorne Hotel awaiting demolition

TripAdvisor rated it 3.5 from 2,457 reviews. The biggest single proportion of reviewers (753) said it was ‘average’, but more people (358) said it was ‘terrible’ compared with 291 who said it was ‘excellent’, whilst 556 said it was ‘very good’ and 499 posted that it was ‘poor’.

Rae 2206 posted the last review in August 2021 (for a stay in February) saying: “Very nice rooms and staff during Covid for a funeral. Good price but prob because 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 as well.”

Weeds are claiming the Copthorne Hotel sign ahead of its demolition
Weeds are claiming the Copthorne Hotel sign ahead of its demolition

In July 2021, Sophie P said: “I’ve heard this hotel is closing down and I am not surprised. The rooms are so old and smell, there are no spare sockets to use – one is where the TV is plugged in and the other is where an old rickety fan needs to be plugged in as the room is so stuffy.”

In response to another negative comment from a person with that as their only TripAdvisor review to their name, manager Simon Doyle said the hotel was closing in July, 2021 “with the loss of everyone’s jobs… this is by no means an excuse for the issues you faced during your stay with us but this is a very difficult time given the circumstances and we have taken the appropriate action to resolve the matter with your group directly.”

By that point he was running a hotel that was not just on the verge of closing, but which would have had 18 months of Covid-related issues and restrictions to cope with, too.

The video below shows just how quickly the Copthorne’s twin sister building, Chamberlain House, was demolished in a weekend – a sign of things to come for the hotel later this year.

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In an interview with BirminghamLive in 2018, Mr Doyle talked about how people arriving by car that year were being frustrated by the re-configured road networks in the area. But he hoped that Copthorne would be the company in the new (152-bed, 17-storey, boutique) hotel given planning permission in January 2022 for the Paradise Street end of the redevelopment area.

What’s coming next

Planning permission was granted in January 2022 for a 152-bed, 17-storey ’boutique’ hotel with a ‘sky bar’. It will be on the corner of the Paradise site where Fletcher’s Walk used to be and overlook the A38 Queensway. A new office block called Three Chamberlain Square will be built alongside on Paradise Street, filling in the space between the hotel and Birmingham Town Hall.

Chamberlain House was demolished in January 2018 as part of the Paradise redevelopment scheme
The Copthorne’s sister building – Chamberlain House – was demolished in January 2018 as part of the Paradise redevelopment scheme

The two new buildings will then back onto a new area of public realm to be called Ratcliff Square.

Rob Groves, regional development director with Paradise development manager MEPC, 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 legibility and connectivity of the city centre.

“With One Centenary Way, Octagon and further landmark buildings coming forward, we’re continuing to bring new cutting edge buildings to Birmingham, creating new jobs, skills and opportunities for the city and region. The plans to complete Phase Two will continue to develop and underline our overall approach.”

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