Historically, Saint Nicholas’ Church occupied the site until in 1955. The Church of England deemed the building surplus to requirements and had the Church demolished. Subsequently, the Colchester Co-operative Society purchased the site and built St Nicholas House as a department store. The existing building was, therefore, purpose-built to provide retail, office and storage accommodation in a detached four-storey property comprising basement, ground, first and second-floor levels. The site was home to a sports store until late 2009, when the space became vacant. Purcell prepared a planning application on behalf of the client who recently purchased the building for conversion into a hotel.

The scheme provides a 43-bedroom hotel, located in the heart of Colchester Town Centre. Retail use has been retained at ground-floor level. Due to the sensitive nature of the hotel’s location, Purcell engaged with Colchester Borough Council’s planning team early. Discussions around the proposals for the project took place to ensure everyone was on board from the outset.

Several challenges were overcome through innovative and thoughtful design solutions during the conversion of the existing building. To avoid disruption to the ongoing use of the retail units at ground-floor, the services from the hotel rooms at first, second and third floors, needed to be routed to centralised vertical risers. To achieve the necessary falls for drainage, a raised access floor system was introduced at each floor. The access floor also assisted in the laying of efficient and accessible routes for other services and maximised acoustic separation between floors.

Prior to conversion, the fenestration of the existing office was single-glazed, steel-framed windows, characteristic of its post-war, modernist style. The windows were poorly maintained and were significantly substandard against modern thermal and acoustic requirements. Due to the prominent location of the building within Colchester Town Centre Conservation Area, the selection of modern replacement windows was extremely sensitive. Working closely with the conservation and building control officers, we sourced a wide range of replacement windows and types to enable the selection of a modern, high-performing window system, that was acceptable for use within the Conservation Area.