Former Cambridge police station set for luxury hotel conversion

Paul Stevens By Paul Stevens
24 June 2019 | Updated 24 June 2019

UK: Cambridge City Council has granted permission for the city's historic former police and fire station to be converted into a 57 all-suite luxury boutique hotel and tearoom.

Operating under the Rogue City Hotels brand, the hotel has been designed by established hospitality designer Dexter Moren Associates (DMA) for its client, Henley, and will see key features of the Grade II Listed Hobson House preserved, restored and opened up to the public for the first time in decades.

Hobson House, built in 1901 on St Andrew's Street, sits on a site associated with the charity founded by 17th century Cambridge philanthropist Thomas Hobson, from whom the phrase 'Hobson's Choice' derives. Over the years, the building has served in various capacities as a workhouse, a gaol for the university, a police and fire station, and council offices.

DMA's design respects the important original spaces without significant alteration, whilst more recent build elements in the existing fabric will provide a visual lift to the character of Downing Place to the rear. DMA has proposed that the unique covered courtyard will be enclosed to become a destination tearoom and eatery at the heart of the hotel, creating vibrancy and social interaction for both guests and local neighbours.

DMA's inhouse conservation knowledge and planning expertise saw it navigate the design through a number of pre-application meetings and a Design and Conservation Review Panel.

The project has been led by DMA partner Paul Wells, who said: "Hobson House is an architectural gem located in Cambridge's historic city centre, with many fantastic original features local people may be unaware of. Sadly, since its conversion to office use in the 1960s the building has suffered from chronic under-investment and its many of its original features have been denied the care they deserve.

"Now that our hotel proposal has been granted permission, Henley can give the building a new lease of life, not only helping to serve the needs of the city's many visitors, but also preserving and restoring Hobson House for the local residents to embrace and be truly proud of," he added.

DMA's proposals will see the original ornate entrance hall and principal stone staircase retained and repaired to their former glory, alongside the first-floor chief constable's office, which will also be restored with the existing timber panelling and bold ceiling pattern fully repaired. The building's original stained glass windows, ceiling plasterwork and wood panelling will be renovated throughout the entire property.

The exterior façade on St Andrew's Street will be cleaned on the stone exterior to activate and open the ornate frontage and welcome visitors into the site.

Furthermore, the design creates a landscaped destination tearoom in the double height former drill yard. This will allow the public to access an otherwise 'land locked' part of the building, allowing visitors to enjoy the scale of the space.

Nassar Khalil, director of Hotels and Leisure at Henley and chief executive of Rogue City Hotels, said: "We are extremely excited to have secured planning consent for our next hotel in the heart of one of the UK's most enchanting cities.

"As with all our hotels, our focus is to provide guests with design led luxury accommodation, exceptional service, comfort and convenience, and curate a special relationship with the local area. These summed up the key attributes of a Rogue City Hotel," he added.

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