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Monday, 14 July 2014

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Carlisle's former post office to be turned in 'aparthotel'

Carlisle's former Crown Post Office is to get a complete external makeover in readiness for conversion into a luxury ‘aparthotel’.

Post office photo
The former Post Office building in Warwick Road

But a plan to put a Revolution vodka bar on the ground floor has fallen through.

Local businessmen Simon Harrison, Phillip Rheinbach and former Carlisle Brass owner Robin Graham bought the empty building in Warwick Road last year.

Scaffolding is due to go up tomorrow to allow the facade to be thoroughly cleaned.

Mr Harrison said: “We are going to steam clean the front and clean and repaint the windows. The plan is to make the building really stand out. It will be like a new pin.”

A planning application for change of use should be with the city council by the middle of November.

This would allow the ground floor, which already has planning permission for retail use, to become a bar, restaurant or leisure outlet and for the upper floors to be converted into serviced apartments.

Manchester-based Inventive Leisure, which operates the Revolution chain of vodka bars, had been in talks to take over the whole of the ground floor.

Mr Harrison said it was likely now that the ground floor will be subdivided and let to two or three operators.

He added: “We got the heads of terms agreed with Revolution but we’re now looking at other options.

“The long and short of it is that Carlisle has dropped down in their priorities.

“It’s disappointing but we feel to a degree that it’s the right thing for the building.

“Their layout would have required quite a lot of demolition work at the back.

“We have had interest from other parties who are coming up around October 18.”

When the businessmen acquired the post office, their first idea was attract a boutique hotel operator such as Malmaison, Indigo or Hotel du Vin.

However, there was little interest in the current economic climate.

Their plan now is to have an aparthotel with between 19 and 24 rooms.

These are an increasingly-popular alternative to conventional hotels in larger cities.

Guests have a living area and kitchen facilities, as well as an en-suite bedroom, an attractive option for business people spending several days or even weeks at a time away from home.

The rooms would be high specification with power showers, flat-screen TVs and internet access.

There is space at the back for a 60-space car park.

The building was erected by John Laing in 1916 and once housed the city’s telephone exchange.

It closed in April 2008 when the counters moved to WH Smith in English Street.

It went up for sale in 2009 with an asking price of £750,000.

Former MP Eric Martlew applied to have it listed but his approach was turned down.

It is, however, within the city-centre conservation area.

Mr Harrison is keen for the derelict former Lonsdale Cinema next door to be improved.

He says it is an eyesore and hampered efforts to attract a boutique hotel.

The News & Star reported on Thursday that the city council had used legal powers to board up broken panels to keep the Lonsdale secure.

Mr Harrison said: “We’ve been talking to the council about tidying up the area. There are encouraging signs.”

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