A handsome Victorian redbrick public building is earmarked for conversion into one of the region’s leading luxury hotels.
The Victorian Old Shire Hall which was built to house Durham County Council in 1896 and last served as Durham University’s headquarters in 2008 has been sold to businessman Shaun Crawley who has plans to create a luxury 70-room boutique hotel.
According to a report in The Northern Echo, Crawley hopes to invest the Grade II-listed building with spa facilities, a fine dining restaurant, bars, 40 hotel rooms, a 30-room apart-hotel and functions rooms, creating a country house atmosphere at the heart of Durham City.
Crawley is looking for support to fulfil his vision and invites contact from interested hotel operators and restaurateurs.
He has also said he would consider the option selling the building as it stands with planning permission, refurbishing it and selling it as ready to open. “It’s a boutique hotel operator’s dream,” he told the newspaper.
“It’s a country house in the middle of the city, offering the experience of a spa luxury break without having to go out into the country.”
There have been rumours that Malmaison and Hotel du Vin were interested in the site but Crawley says he has had no contact with these chains but he has held discussions with one potential buyer and one potential operator.
In 2010, Gary Davis, chief executive Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, said the group was just months away from signing a deal to buy the landmark Victorian building.
The University sold the building to the regional development agency One North East in 2008 for £4.2m. When that body was wound up, ownership then passed to the Homes and Communities Agency, which sold it to Crawley in February.
Mr Crawley has held extensive discussions with Durham County Council and hopes to submit a planning application for Old Shire Hall’s conversion later this month.