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Civic Society award first-ever ‘blue plaque’ to restoration of The Gresham

Civic Society award a blue plaque to the renovated The Gresham building
Civic Society award a blue plaque to the renovated The Gresham building

Leicester Civic Society have awarded The Gresham building with a prestigious ‘blue plaque’ for being the best restoration, refurbishment, and reimagining of a building in the city. The plaque, which is the first to be awarded by the Civic Society to a building, specifically recognises rg+p architects for their design.

The blue plaque award was celebrated at The Gresham’s second anniversary event on Thursday 9 November.

Following a £17 million sympathetic restoration, The Gresham Aparthotel is now home to 121 luxury, stylish serviced apartments each containing a kitchenette, ensuite facilities, shower room and dining area with a smart TV.

Steeped in history, the iconic Victorian building was originally home to Joseph Johnson & Co Ltd in 1880, traded as one of the premier stores in the city until it was taken over and transformed into Fenwick in 1962. The former Fenwick store had a complex design, consisting of several separate buildings unified in several phases to form a single store.

Ben Walton, Design Director at rg+p architects, said: “Our restorative design of the landmark building respected the listed elements of the former Fenwick building and has allowed the building to be brought back into use.

“The Gresham Aparthotel is providing high-quality award-winning serviced apartments as well as office space. Each room is individual and characterful in terms of its shape and layout, designed to make the most of the unique architectural features. Some have steps and some are all on one level. There is no carbon copy and no clinical feel.

“The transformation of this building has not only been recognised locally but at a national level too making Leicester stand out for all of the right reasons and ensuring the history and legacy of the beautiful building has not been lost.”

Snizhana Yesaulenko, CEO of The Gresham Aparthotel, said: “The Gresham was one of the most exciting – yet demanding developments. A complex and dearly cherished building steeped in history. A considerable amount of structural strengthening and levelling took place to make sure it met building control requirements.

"We were passionate about the history and preservation of the building and tried to keep as many original features as possible. This included the original staircase which is still in situ along with the original handrails and balustrades. We also restored the windows, hand painted them and then reinstalled them. The exterior stone work was also restored and the iconic gables were repainted.

“As a team we worked hard and collaboratively to develop a strong building that continues to be cherished, admired, and adored as well as used to its full potential.

“We are delighted that the hard work has not gone unnoticed. After winning several prestigious awards this year already securing a blue plaque really is the icing on the cake and signifies that this iconic building is still cherished at the heart of the city.”

The Blue Plaque on The Gresham building
The Blue Plaque on The Gresham building

Burt McNeill, Chair of Leicester Civic Society, said: “The Gresham is a superb success story for Leicester and an exemplar of breathing life into a former empty building.

“There are already blue plaques around the city awarded by the local authority which recognise famous people who have contributed to Leicester. But this blue plaque is the first of its kind awarded by us at the civic society.

“The reason for this type of recognition is that we want to ensure that the city retains special elements like The Gresham building which has stood gallant in the city for hundreds of years.

“We campaign for achieving the highest standards whether it is about regenerating and transforming older places or encouraging imaginative, modern architecture. We also like to recognise when projects achieve these standards, and The Gresham is the perfect example of this and shows that the new can co-exist alongside the older fabric of the city.”

Aparthotels have been most popular in Europe and America for years and only now becoming more and more opted for in the UK. The team behind The Gresham in Leicester researched and reviewed the market before opting for an aparthotel and since opening this has proved to be a good move.

In May 2023, The Gresham Aparthotel was also awarded ‘Best Operator 51-200 units’ at the internationally acclaimed annual Serviced Apartment Awards. The nomination was judged against other entries from all around the world by an independent panel consisting of travel buyers, journalists, architects, designers, and service providers.


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