London's futuristic BT Tower landmark to become hotel

An aerial view of London's BT Tower in 2010.
An aerial view of the BT Tower in 2010. Photo credit: Tim Motion/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

Tourists who fancy getting a top-down view of London may soon be able to book themselves a room in the city's famous BT Tower.

A much-loved part of the London skyline, the former communication tower has just been sold for £275 million to MCR Hotels, which plans to open it up to the public by "repurposing it as a hotel".

According to a statement from telecom company BT Group on Wednesday, the sale is "securing its (the tower's) place as a London landmark for the future."

When the building was completed in 1964 it overtook the Millbank Tower in Westminster to become the British capital's tallest structure. Situated in Fitzrovia, central London, it was officially opened by the then-prime minister, Harold Wilson, the following year. The main structure is 177m high, but an additional section of aerial rigging brings it up to 620 feet.

Originally known as the Post Office Tower, the building was designed to relay microwave signals carrying telecommunications from London around the country. However, it has gradually been replaced by the company's fixed and mobile networks. Its dish-like microwave aerials were removed more than 10 years ago as they were no longer needed.

It remained London's tallest building until 1980, when it was overtaken by the NatWest Tower in the financial district. Both have since been massively eclipsed by the Shard, which towers over the city at 310m high.

The building, which has a grade II listing from national heritage body Historic England, was open to the public for several years, with a restaurant on a revolving floor at the top.

In 1971, however, it closed to the public after a bomb explosion on the 31st floor, for which nobody ever claimed responsibility.

In 2009, an LED screen was wrapped around the 36th and 37th floors, with a message proclaiming 1000 days until the 2012 London Olympics. The 'information band', as it is known, has since been used to display many different messages, including the late Queen's first tweet, in 2014, and advice to 'Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives' amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press release announcing the sale of the site, Brent Mathews, property director for BT Group, said the company had been "immensely proud" to own the "important landmark".

He added: "It's played a vital role in carrying the nation's calls, messages and TV signals, but increasingly we're delivering content and communication via other means. This deal with MCR will enable BT Tower to take on a new purpose, preserving this iconic building for decades to come."

This latest addition will bump up MCR's portfolio of around 150 luxury hotels, including the TWA Hotel at New York's JFK airport, a reimagining of Eero Saarinen's 1962 Flight Center.

Also in the Big Apple is the Art Deco New Yorker hotel, which has a rich history and has played host to VIPs from John F. Kennedy to Muhammad Ali.

Tyler Morse, CEO and owner of MCR Hotels, said in the press release: "We are proud to preserve this beloved building and will work to develop proposals to tell its story as an iconic hotel, opening its doors for generations to enjoy."

Comparing the project to the company's transformation of the TWA Flight Center, Morse added: "We see many parallels between the TWA Hotel and the BT Tower.

"Both are world-renowned, groundbreaking pieces of architecture. It's been a privilege to adapt the TWA Flight Center into new use for future generations, as it will be the BT Tower."