The top floor of Leicester Square’s newest luxury hotel will boast impressive views across London, showcasing an uninterrupted skyline from the city to the London Eye and beyond.
But it’s the bottom floor that is perhaps its most impressive feat – to get to it, guests will descend 30 metres below ground.
Nine floors will be above ground and six will be below, making it almost as deep as it is tall.
The hotel and adjoining Odeon cinema will form an island site with 350 guest rooms, 15 suites, five restaurants and lounges, a rooftop bar, a subterranean spa and two cinema screens, also underground. All bedrooms will be above ground.
It will also have a 1,000 capacity ballroom which will be a big boost to the UK’s ability to accommodate major film industry events, a BFI employee told Business Traveller. The cinema will be accessible from the hotel, which will also have rooms specifically for hosting film junkets and equipment for hosting media crews.
The site was formerly home to the Odeon West End, which was demolished in 2015 after the removal of extensive amounts of asbestos. The redevelopment was first reported by Business Traveller in 2012.
Excavation on the subterranean levels began in August 2015 and the hotel held a ‘Bottoming Out’ ceremony in February, when builders reached the lowest point. On Thursday it held its ‘Topping Out’ ceremony on the roof, attended by Jasminder Singh, chairman and CEO of Edwardian Hotels.
The hotel group has invested £300m into The Londoner. It has owned the site for seven years, time it spent negotiating permissions and working with architects, planners and designers.
Westminster Council were firm on a 30-metre height limit, with the quality of the view in the area protected by UNESCO.
“So there’s only one way you can go – you have to go down,” Edwardian’s Commercial Development Director Iype Abraham told Business Traveller at the Topping Out ceremony.
“No one’s ever gone down this deep in the UK [on a hotel project]. We’ve gone down more than 30 metres because we wanted to put in facilities like a great spa, banquet rooms, two screens, a club space.
“It is very rare to be able to own a site with this kind of location and we wanted to maximise value.”
The delivery then came down to designers Woods Bagot, engineers Arup and developers McGee.
An excavator had to be specially made for the project in order to go deep enough, Abraham said. It was also a major logistical challenge to get enough lorries in and out to remove the dirt in such a central location.
“But all of that has been well worth it,” Abraham said.
Edwardian has owned the neighbouring Hampshire Hotel, which operates under its Radisson Blu brand, since the 1980s. Prices there start from around £250 per night.
“We have been a great partner for Westminster in the regeneration of the square,” Abraham said. “We want to see it much more elevated and family oriented. A huge amount of traffic moves through the square. We want to get families here and to stay here. Our new façade has a lot of al fresco dining opportunities so people can stay here rather than using it as a walkthrough.”
Edwardian has two brands, Radisson Blu Edwardian, London with 11 properties and The May Fair with one. It also owns restaurant brands including Monmouth Kitchen and Steak and Lobster, and several UK spas.
It was founded in 1979 by Jasminder Singh, who bought its first property for about $750,000, Forbes reports. Singh was awarded an OBE for services to the hotel industry in 2007 and has a net worth of more than a billion dollars.
If subterranean hotels take your fancy, check out the Intercontinental Shanghai Wonderland, which took 10 years and $500 million to construct – 14 floors descend 80 metres down an abandoned quarry, with two more underwater: