US30 – I’d never seen anything like it. It’s an icon
Paul Taylor and Tracey Stephenson co-founded the brand in 2008, creating design-led boutique serviced apartments aimed at people who want to feel both completely at home and thoroughly looked after. Fast forward to today and Staying Cool’s as popular as ever, with fans including The Times newspaper.
In this new blog, Tracey talks about shared anniversaries, shared ideas, and getting her idea off the ground.
We’ve long been friends of Urban Splash; my business partner Paul Taylor left the Granada Television board to study at the Manchester School of Architecture, and he took the bold step in the early 2000s to invest in one of the Urban Splash Box Works apartments in Castlefield, buying a shell space and making it his own.
I’d often visit Paul there in the early 2000. Paul met Tom Bloxham and the Urban Splash gang after they started using his home as an example of what can be done to a shell space.
A few years later in the mid-2000s, Urban Splash had been appointed to transform Rotunda, an iconic tower in the centre of Birmingham. I’d studied in Coventry so knew the building well. I’d never seen anything like it. It’s an icon and I knew it would be safe in the hands of Splash – with their growing reputation as an innovative, design-led developer.
I also knew that we had to get involved…
Paul and I had set up Staying Cool, combining the best of our travel experiences, Paul’s architecture credentials and my tourism and marketing experience a couple of years earlier. We invested in 15 apartments on the upper floors of Rotunda. We had a great time working with Splash – transforming the interiors from residential to hotel-style.
There were hiccups though. It was 2008 and we were at the start of that famously significant global economic crash. It was a really tough time for the business especially when our bank decided to withdraw our financing. Any time I hear Duffy’s song ‘Mercy’ I’m transported back to those turbulent days; I don’t know if it’s because it was out at the time, or because of the prominent lyrics, but it’s a tune that takes me right back!
Urban Splash were brilliant though, and we worked together to explore a way through – agreeing to lease the apartments until we were able to rearrange the finance. That flexibility – something you still see with Urban Splash today – helped us realise our shared vision – a completed building, a restored icon, and for us, our boutique serviced apartment offering.
The day Rotunda opened its doors Urban Splash and Staying Cool hosted a joint reception in our newly fitted out apartments to showcase the building – we were so proud! Urban Splash had created something really special at Rotunda; their aesthetic resonated with us and our guests – really addressing our passions for design, detail and difference, and we were delighted to be a part of it.
They also share our love for the arts, and for our own anniversary we’ve launched the Creative Heights events programme at Rotunda – inviting creatives in the city to get involved and use our spaces. We’ve also toasted the occasion with our specially brewed Rotunda Pale Ale, with local artist Stacey Barnfield designing the cans so they look like a mini-Rotunda.
I imagine its similar to the way in which Urban Splash will be celebrating this summer. I love the brand and everything they’ve done over the years – especially in Birmingham. I’m a trustee and chair of the Trading Board at Birmingham Museums Trust so I’m keen on anything Urban Splash has done in the city – things like Port Loop and Fort Dunlop.
I imagine the same pioneering attitude and appetite for new places will propel them through the next 30 years and beyond, so today I’m raising a can of Rotunda Pale in their honour and saying thank you for helping to take Staying Cool to great heights!
Find out more about Staying Cool, and the boutique apartments on offer in Birmingham and Mallorca.
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