The Great Hotel Conversion Trend

We are seeing an exciting increase in hotels enhancing shopping malls and high streets and saving empty office buildings. This in turn is helping to uplift the local community.

Shopping malls were retail destinations in their own right, giving shoppers a large variety of retail offerings within one location. However, the way people shop, and the arrival of online shopping has forever changed and increasingly challenged the shopping mall, with the pandemic just speeding up the changes. With some exceptions, owners of shopping malls have come under growing pressure to maximise the potential viability of their assets again.

A ray of hope that could be set to save many shopping malls, is the post-pandemic surge of experiential travel. In the case of shopping malls, it means enhancing the retail components, by providing more restaurants and a variety of leisure facilities and experiences – and the addition of hotels. This will entice tourists and local shoppers, who will see these as leisure destinations, rather than just places to exchange cash for goods.

Shopping malls are ripe for this transformation, as many often have substantial acreage in densely populated areas that already have good access to infrastructure, which helps make them suitable for accommodation as well.  This in turn can unlock land value by activating dormant space such as parking lots or as many malls have flat roofs, there is scope to consider airspace development.

Having a mixed purpose offering in one location answers the concept of the 15-minute city, which was inspired by French-Colombian scientist Carlos Moreno,  highlighting that it can and should be attainable for people to have access to everything they need within a 15-minute walk or cycle of their dwellings to save time and enhance quality of life.

The idea of mixed-use development doesn’t stop with shopping malls. There is a growing trend in cities to convert redundant office buildings into hotels. This is being driven by various factors, such as changes to the office market, with an estimated 35% decrease in office rentals and an increasing demand for hotel accommodation.

The rise of hybrid and remote working has meant that traditional office space is less in demand and property owners and developers have had to look hard at alternative uses for their buildings, in order to stay lucrative. In many instances, converting them into hotels is emerging as an attractive and viable solution.

In cities such as London, where space is a premium, and being a global tourist destination, there is always a demand for hotels. With feasible space for new build hotel developments scarce, converting existing buildings such as redundant office blocks that can be viably repurposed is a no-brainer.

Office blocks lend themselves to this cause for several reasons, with a prime benefit being that so many are open plan. Partition walls and modularity can be successfully used for the construction of rooms, which can be key to commercial success.  Structurally, large open office spaces tend to be solidly constructed and surround a central service core containing lifts, plumbing, ducts and risers, fire stairs, bathrooms and equipment. Wet areas located against the core can easily be connected to the building services and systems.

Most modern office buildings already have the advantage of a 3-meter floor to ceiling height and large windows to allow plenty of natural light. There is also often scope to move various exterior walls, in order to create balconies or outside leisure and hospitality spaces.

Taking into consideration that many office buildings are centrally situated, puts them in close proximity to prime tourist locations and makes them very attractive for redevelopment.

As with any large-scale conversion, it is essential to have the right team in place. A good Architect will be able to visualise and design the best use of the space within the building, to maximise its potential and ensure its adherence to the differing regulations required for the changed use of the space. An experienced Project Manager and Quantity Surveyor will  be able to facilitate the planning elements, and to help ensure that the works out carried out on time and within budget.

Ultimately, whether it is a redeveloped office block or the addition of a hotel within a shopping mall, these will help to inherently improve the local urban experience and to drive profitability for the owners.

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