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Kickstart for gateway as pounds 24m hotel work begins.

Byline: GRAEMEBROWN

Work has begun on a pounds 24 million hotel in a key gateway to Birmingham set to benefit from hundreds of millions of pounds of development.

A Hotel La Tour will open in February next year, kicking off a wider City Park Gate development which forms part of plans to regenerate and meet the potential of the city's Eastside district.

But managing director Jane Schofield admitted there had been no small amount of good fortune involved with securing a hotel in the centre of an area of such vast potential.

The hotel stands to be on the doorstep of the Bullring, the New Street development and, perhaps most importantly, the proposed High Speed Rail station.

The 174-bedroom four-star hotel will also have conference space, a restaurant and bar and a street cafe and will create 100 jobs.

Ms Schofield admitted it had been a leap of faith to choose the site but is confident it was the right choice.

She said: "It is a leap of faith, absolutely.

When we first looked at the site none of this was going to be developed but since then everything that is going on in Birmingham has been fantastic for us.

"The weight of numbers we will get on this side of the city will get people talking about us.

"The fact that things are happening around us is a bit of luck rather than anything else."

The construction project is the first in City Park Gate and one of a select band of privately-funded projects under way.

Eastside is seen as having vast potential, but plans to regenerate the area have been hit by a series of setbacks.

The Post revealed in 2008 that the nearby Masshouse was to be used for a new pounds 81 million magistrates' court, but those proposals have been put on hold despite pounds 12 million already having been spent on buying the site. Birmingham City University also wanted to build a 30,000 sq m facility between Park Street and New Canal Street, but had to scrap the pounds 123 million plans because of the proposed high-speed rail station and resubmit plans for land next to Millenium Point.

Ms Schofield is working alongside hoteliers Alan English and Norman Bellone after the trio sold their Hayley Conference Centres business to Principal Hotels for pounds 358 million in 2007.

The group plans to build five hotels in the next five years, starting with Birmingham.

While PKF's Hotel Britain 2011 reports the road ahead for the UK hotel market is "stubbornly turbulent" Ms Schofield said she was confident of success - and believes now is the right time for investment.

"For us this is a fantastic time. We have been able to buy pieces of land earmarked for apartments and offices and it has enabled us to look at land which would not have been available to us in a better economy.

"From that point of view it is a fantastic time - but only if you have the money, as lending is obviously difficult."

The hotel will start recruiting in October with a view to opening in February.

CAPTION(S):

Jane Schofield follows the progress of the building work on the Hotel La Tour at Eastside. Inset: How the completed building will look
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 2, 2011
Words:545
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