While regeneration of Croydon’s town centre remains stalled – whatever became of part-time Perry’s ‘plan’ for the Allders building? – a long-loved public building in a neighbouring borough has been repurposed.
By our hotels correspondent, JOANNA PLUMLEY
The next time Croydon’s Tory Mayor, Jason Perry, claims that the council has no assets to sell to avoid crunchingly painful cuts to services or inflation-busting 15per cent increases in Council Tax, show him the overly grand Town Hall on Katharine Street and then put him on a bus heading for Bromley.
As a fully subscribed member of the car lobby, our pro-pollution Mayor will really hate having to travel by bus, but he will also hate what he discovers when he gets off in Bromley, too.
The neo-Georgian Grade II-listed Bromley Old Town Hall had been standing empty for a decade until it underwent a £20million overhaul to turn it into Brama, a 23-room boutique hotel which is due to open this summer, plus “a whole ecosystem of amenities” in a kind of on-trend members’ club with meeting rooms, podcast studios and a “traditional” British restaurant.
No one’s said to what use they have put the Old Town Hall’s underground nuclear bunker, but suffice to say that after the multi-million-pound overhaul, it is unlikely that were he alive today David Bowie, who got married in the building in 1970, would recognise much of it.
Built in 1907, the now rejuvenated building retains its crittall windows and bright copper-domed roof. It had been on the Heritage at Risk register before Castleforge, the parent company of Clockwise, who will operate the club, took on the lead tenancy. Their planning application received the backing of government heritage advisers.
Now, their offer is more than 62,000 sqft of clubbable work space, with “beautifully designed dedicated offices, private desks, meeting rooms, a members’ lounge, café and terrace”.
They say, “All memberships are wrapped up in a simple price without any hidden fees or tricky terms, making it the ideal place to work remotely just outside the city.”
A basic day pass to use the hot-desking office facilities costs £20. Other packages, up to renting your own dedicated, serviced office, range from £50 to £300 per month.
Lattés and sandwiches come at extra cost, and it can get a bit pricy in the distinctly Soho House-style Dorothy and Marshall restaurant, which opened last autumn in what used to be the old courtroom. “It’s hardly their fault that £7.60 for a single slice of eggy bread with one sliced strawberry seems to be the going rate these days,” wrote Grace Dent in a restaurant review last month, where she compared her dining experience to having “the feel of a masonic lodge”.
The next phase of the re-purposing of Bromley’s Old Town Hall comes in the coming few weeks with the opening of the Brama hotel, due in “early summer”, where rooms can be booked from £109 per night (“on a room only basis”, so get ready to cough up £7.60 for your eggy bread in the morning).
The return of Bromley Old Town Hall is being driven by Alexandra Livesey, managing director of Brama and chief operating officer of Clockwise.
“Bromley Old Town Hall has such a rich heritage, we discovered amazing architectural details which we’ve worked tirelessly to restore carefully and sensitively while introducing practical modern elements,” she said.
“We wanted to bring the building back to life, position it once again as a space for the community and local area while welcoming guests from further afield to show all that Bromley has to offer.
“The opening of Brama hotel as part of this mixed use scheme is an exciting addition and there’s nothing else like it in the area.”
Livesey and Clockwise have an eye on nearby Biggin Hill business airport for some of their custom.
“Brama is set to be a home away from home for the modern traveller – whether guests need a place to recharge before exploring the town, or a restful night’s sleep before a big pitch, Brama combines local flair with luxury as you like it,” runs their pitch. The rooms, they say, “combine convenience and comfort with universal appeal”.
And they say, “From design to delivery, service to sustainability, every detail has been considered in the development of Bromley Old Town Hall, resulting in a space where collaboration and community can come to life.
“The building’s original breathtaking art deco design still runs throughout; Brama features subtle architectural nods to the era, incorporating modern elements for a comfortable stay.”
And in more bad news for “born-and-bred Croydonian” Jason Perry, Brama are saying that Bromley is “in the heart of Greater London’s most up-and-coming destination”, adding that “Bromley was recently named the best area of London to live in”.
They say, “The re-opening of Bromley Old Town Hall signals a reinvigoration of the building’s spirit and a renewal of its purpose.”
In case he doesn’t know, the 119 will get Mayor Perry all the way to Bromley, and he can find out more about re-using an under-used, former civic building by checking out bramahotels.com.
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With meeting rooms available in Bernard Weatherill House leasing out Committee Rooms on the eastern side of the Town Hall first floor and meeting rooms on the second floor, one of which was given to each Cabinet member in the last Labour administration would yield an income for the council.
I did suggest this at the election.
The Mayor’s Parlour and council chamber would need to be retained for council use and civic receptions.
The rooms are in good condition with the Bowness administration having spent a £1million on refurbishment in the 1980’s.
Bromley hasn’t spent most of the last decade looking like a deserted building site and can’t call upon the brilliant dynamic skills of part time and Philp in their innovations to make Croydon the destination for post apocalyptic productions and the first choice for Chinese Police Stations in the future. Croydon always lives in a state of potential, while Bromley is yesterdays story with it’s economic success and flash hotels and being the envy of other London Boroughs. When is that express 119 service being launched?
Taking from the public and giving to the rich?