Holiday Inn Development

Steel frames that will form the basis of the newest addition to the Sunderland city centre skyline are rising from the ground.  

The new 120-bed Holiday Inn Hotel at Keel Square is taking shape, after the metal frame was erected, setting out the basis of the structure, which will stand four storeys high. 

The development, which is being brought forward by Cairn Group, is expected to open its doors in spring 2022, and will feature active ground floor spaces that will be occupied by cafes and eateries, with upper floors providing attractive accommodation for business and leisure visitors.

Plans were first approved in 2019, with works commencing in 2020. Cairn Group’s Richard Warren said it is now full-steam ahead to open the £18m hotel by spring 2022.

He said: “It’s fantastic to see the frame in place for this excellent new addition to the city’s hotel offer.  We are really excited by the plans for Riverside Sunderland and can see such potential in this part of the city, so we’re delighted to be developing a venue that can play a part in the success of Sunderland.

“The hotel will stand in a prime position, allowing it to attract both leisure and business guests.  It’s full steam ahead until opening now.”

Cairn Group’s £18m Holiday Inn development is being part-funded by Canada Life, a commitment secured by Avison Young, and will create additional accommodation that will support an increasing number of visitors to the city. 

With commercial buildings - including City Hall and two further offices led by Landid, as part of Legal & General’s £100m commitment to Riverside Sunderland - set to appear on the former Vaux Brewery site, as well as the conversion of the former Gilbridge police station into high-specification commercial premises, and the addition of the Auditorium in the Cultural Quarter, it is expected that the position of the hotel will appeal to a range of leisure and business guests.

Aneil Handa, on behalf of Cairn Group, said: “I’m pleased to see this hotel taking shape.  These are exciting times for Sunderland, with so much happening on the riverside and into the city centre and this hotel will only add to the sense that this is a city with confidence in its offer.”

The keenly-awaited addition to the city centre will create 130 jobs when it opens its doors next year and the ground-floor commercial units are expected to create opportunities for food and beverage outlets, that will add to the city’s daytime and evening economy. 

The group is open to providing letting opportunities to both national operators as well as local businesses, and with two of the four spaces set to be let by Sunderland City Council, people who may be interested in taking space are being invited to get in touch.

Peter McIntrye, executive director of city development at Sunderland City Council, said: “The active ground floor frontage will make this hotel a hive of activity, with guests of the hotel and people living and working at Riverside Sunderland and the rest of the city centre able to make use of the eateries that open there.  The hotel will play an important part in connecting the city centre to the Vaux site and we’re thrilled to see it moving forward.

“Hotel developments are a real vote of confidence in the city’s visitor economy as well as its ability to attract business travellers – and we’re pleased that Cairn Group can see the increasing sense of vibrancy that is building in Sunderland.”

The Keel Square hotel is the latest hotel regeneration project led by Cairn Group, with other projects including Holiday Inn Jesmond, Holiday Inn Scotch Corner, Mercure Darlington Kings Hotel, Cairn Hotel Newcastle and DoubleTree by Hilton Newcastle International Airport.  Cairn Group recently partnered with Starwood Capital on their Treehouse Hotel on London’s Regent Street, which opened in November 2019.

The hotel is one of a number of significant developments underway in Sunderland city centre, with more than £350m of projects set to be in site in the city centre this year.  Between them, the projects will transform Riverside Sunderland, which will become home to 1,000 ultra-sustainable residential properties, business premises comprising 1m sq ft of space that will welcome up to 10,000 workers and leisure spaces and public realm for people to enjoy.

To stay up to date with developments at Riverside Sunderland, visit or follow @RiversideSund on social media.  Businesses keen to register an interest in the commercial spaces on the ground floor of the hotel – which will be best suited to food and drink operators – should contact Ian Thurlbeck of @retail at