Southern Grove

Developer unveils 'autonomous' apartment hotel that can be accessed with no human interaction

Southern Grove has revealed details of its first autonomous apartment hotel where guests are able to book online, receive a code and access their stay without seeing or talking to a single person.


The £5m scheme named ‘The Workshops’ in Garden Street, Sheffield, is an offshoot of a student accommodation scheme built on the same site of the developer’s sister company Future Generation.

It will add 19 serviced, self-contained apartments to Steel City’s 324 student bedrooms, and will be let under Southern Grove’s hospitality division.

During term time, the apartments — designed by Axis Architecture — will mainly be used by parents and friends visiting student tenants.

Southern Grove will begin tendering for a construction contractor next month. 

“The irony of unveiling an apartment block halfway through a pandemic, where guests don’t have to see anyone else, hasn’t escaped us,” commented Andrew Southern, chairman of Southern Grove and Future Generation.

“Clearly, social distancing wasn’t what we had in mind when we conceived of The Workshops, but these units do operate almost independently. 

“They are completely self-contained and can be accessed by guests without any human interaction.”

Lower staffing costs are said to be a deliberate strategy, so guests can get a premium product at a price they are “not expecting”. 

“A lot of people realise they pay a hefty fee to stay in city centre hotels and are aware that much of that cash is being used to pay staff, when they barely spend any time there.” 

The third phase of Steel City — which will mark the completion of the £35m development — has no staff and the only visitors, besides guests, will be the cleaners who reset the apartments between stays.

“We think this is part of a bigger trend towards better value accommodation where money isn’t wasted on things guests don’t [want],” Andrew added.


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