THE reopening of a landmark Exeter hotel has moved a step closer after contractors were appointed to carry out a major refurbishment.
Hotel Barcelona has been closed since December 2008. It was originally due to reopen 12 months later until the planned redevelopment was put on hold during the recession.
But work on site is finally set to begin after Exeter-based building firm Kier Western landed the contract to complete the renovation. The hotel will reopen in 2012 as a Chapter Hotel, the new UK brand for Swire Hotels.
Operations director David Snell said: "Kier Western is keen to get started. We are delighted to have been chosen to deliver such an ambitious project and to play our part in rejuvenating a landmark hotel."
Work to transform the former eye infirmary in Magdalen Street is expected to take around 14 months to complete.
The number of people employed on the scheme will vary during the project but at its peak Kier expects to have about 100 people working on site.
A spokeswoman for Chapter Hotels said: "We are extremely excited about our plans for the hotel, and are looking forward to welcoming back both local people and visitors when we reopen in 2012."
Exeter will be home to the second hotel under the new brand following the opening of the Montpellier Chapter in Cheltenham in November 2010.
The spokeswoman added: "The whole idea behind the brand is that each hotel is unique ."
The planned revamp of Hotel Barcelona includes a 14-bedroom extension and a new public lounge and bar. Planning permission for the refurbishment was originally granted in June 2008. Several applications to make alterations to the plans were then submitted to Exeter City Council last year.
Planning consent has been given to provide extra accommodation for staff in the lower ground floor in what was formerly the Kino Bar. Extra bedrooms are to be provided in new and existing roof space.
Swire Hotels and Kier Western have not disclosed the value of the contract.
In October last year, the Echo revealed artists' impressions showing how the finished hotel will look. At that time, designers Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios said the project would cost £6.8 million. In a statement, the Bath-based architects said: "We are retaining and adding to the architecture and detail that exists in the entrance lobby, meeting rooms, reception and south lounge, while creating contemporary spaces in the courtyard, restaurant and new third floor."
Exeter-based building firm Rok, which went into administration in November, had previously been linked with the Hotel Barcelona refurbishment. But Swire Hotels said it had been in discussions with a number of contractors and Rok was never appointed.
The reopening of the hotel will bring a long-awaited jobs boost, after 55 staff found themselves out of work when Hotel Barcelona closed in 2008.