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Birmingham city centre is set to have a new entrant next summer when a Jewellery Quarter venue is extended due to the burgeoning apart-hotel market. The team behind the 73-room Bloc Hotel in Caroline Street is planning to add a further 30 apart-hotel rooms in an adjoining vacant building. Bloc opened its first ever hotel in April 2011 which was followed by a second site at Gatwick Airport in February this year.
The extension to the Jewellery Quarter venue was first mooted two years ago with a planned opening date of summer 2013 but Bloc's co-founder Colin Graham told Tamlyn Jones at the Birmingham Post the firm's focus had been very much on the Gatwick project.
"We have been prototyping our new technology which will be incorporated into both the extension and retro fitted into the existing hotel in Birmingham," he said. "We will also be making improvements to existing bedroom doors and as in Gatwick we will be adding new sound insulation.
"The rooms in the extension will have a microwave and fridge but not an oven or hob due to these requiring different fire regulations. Also, we want to draw people to businesses in the local area such as pubs and restaurants.
"There won't be a minimum or maximum stay in the apart-hotel but the building will be different from some of the others in the city which were built as apartments but are now being used as apart-hotel rooms. Ours is a specifically designed product and we believe it is the first of its kind in the city."
Aimed at business travellers and weekend stays, Bloc's 'pod' rooms are compact and maximise the space available with items such as lighting, temperature and blinds all controlled by a tablet device. The apart-hotel will compete with other similar ventures in the city including Irish firm Staycity which is due to open its second Birmingham operation next May.
The Bloc Hotel extension has been design by Birmingham practice BPN Architects and will be built by Bloc's sister company Box Build. Mr Graham added: "Birmingham will be our test bed to make sure we get this right and we're hoping to be open by next May/June. "We hope to have 10 new hotels open within the first five years of trading and we're pushing very hard on that front. We did come close to signing a deal on the Calthorpe Estate in Edgbaston but they decided to hold on to the plot themselves."
The 245 room BLOC Hotel in Gatwick Airport follows in the footsteps of its Birmingham counterpart, offering what it describes as "pared-down chic". The very best materials are used whilst still making the hotel as cost-effective as possible, meaning guests can enjoy stylish and comfortable rooms, in prime city-centre locations, at very good prices.
One of the key factors in BLOC's ethos is making the best use of space and not wasting unnecessary resources - this is what helps keep the hotel's room rates low, without scrimping on quality. To achieve this, BLOC has chosen innovative but trusted brands, which includes Roca for all brassware and sanitaryware. BLOC's rooms are priced on three levels, basic, executive and luxury, and so required a range of products to fit these different themes. The bathrooms themselves are being constructed in pods by Boxbuild. With the ultimate small space WC and washbasin combo, W+W, plus brass and sanitaryware ranging from "budget to boutique", Roca's ethos and product offering work perfectly with the hotel's ambitions.
Samsung has partnered with hotel building specialist Boxbuild to create a fully integrated Smart room control solution for BLOC Hotels, the budget-meets-boutique chain located at Birmingham St Paul's and Gatwick Airport. The move has been heralded by the electronics giant as the "first deal of its kind in the hotel industry," and pitches the brand squarely against traditional CI vendors operating in the same commercial space.
BLOC guests will be able to control their bedroom environment, including room temperature, window blinds, room lighting and TV, through a Samsung 10.1 Tab 2 tablet installed in the guest suite. The hotel room system utilises a Samsung HA690 hospitality screen, Samsung 3 Pipe DVM air conditioning unit and 10.1-inch Tab 2. System control is via a free Boxbuild-created BLOC hotel smartphone app. This app also allows content stored on guest's Android or iOS device to be streamed direct to the room's TV, for a uniquely personal experience. The 'all-in-one' technology solution is scheduled to debut at BLOC's flagship hotel at Gatwick later this year.
Boxbuild director Colin Graham predicts that the system "will make BLOC really standout in the market. Their customers will appreciate this is a special service and it will hopefully encourage them to book with BLOC again and again. We pride ourselves on delivering the things that matter to our clients - the best possible design, finishes and fittings, and so our collaboration with Samsung for BLOC is critical to our package." Research indicates that technology integration is becoming increasingly important to the overall hotel experience - "it's important for us that all our electronic equipment is market leading, high quality and stylish. The Samsung products we've supplied look great, function perfectly and represent excellent value for money to the client."