When Nick Jones, the founder of Soho House & Co, first saw the City’s disused Midland Bank building in 2012, he fell in love. ‘The property had been empty for nearly eight years but there was something about it – the details and scale of it – that just floored me,’ Jones explains. The moment he left, he called Ron Burkle, Soho House chairman and investor. ‘Ron came to view the building and straight away we began to imagine how the project would take form,’ says Jones. Burkle knew a project of this size would require the collaboration of many skills, and so introduced Jones to Andrew Zobler, the CEO of New York’s Sydell Group. ‘The Ned was a much bigger project than either of us had undertaken before,’ says Zobler, ‘so it made sense for us to partner on it.’
Soho House & Co has built and run 18 members’ clubs – most with bedrooms – and 37 restaurants around the world, while Sydell Group has eight hotels in North America, including The NoMad in Manhattan, Freehand in Miami and The Line in Los Angeles. While both companies have worked with historic buildings before, Jones and Zobler were immediately inspired by Sir Edwin ‘Ned’ Lutyens’ masterpiece at 27 Poultry – all 29,450 square metres of it. ‘It was the most beautiful building I’d ever seen,’ says Jones. Zobler adds: ‘The architecture is outstanding and so well preserved. You can’t help but fall in love with it.’
Jones believes The Ned’s location – an evolving business district with little in the way of hotels – bears a resemblance to The NoMad’s once neglected, now vibrant Madison Square North district in New York. ‘With The NoMad, Sydell took an area of Manhattan that had been overlooked in terms of hospitality, opened a hotel with a very clever New York-Parisian feel, and turned the neighbourhood into a destination. I hope we’ll achieve something similar with The Ned,’ says Jones. ‘The City is as busy as Soho and much better looking; it’s the capital’s engine room for commerce but also has more than its fair share of culture for one square mile. And – like New York’s own Financial District – it’s developing at a rapid pace.’
The companies brought different skills to the table. ‘I have a lot of respect for the design and style of Soho House,’ says Zobler. ‘The Ned’s grand banking hall is vast, and because the company operates different types of restaurants and retail spaces – Cecconi’s, Pizza East, Cowshed and so on – Nick and the team were great at working out what should go where.’ As for Sydell’s role, Zobler says: ‘We’ve acted as an editor, challenging and consolidating Nick’s vision. I kept reminding him that we were in the City of London – a lot of Soho House properties and clubs take their cues from the English countryside, so I pushed him to make it more urbane and gentlemanly, to pick up on the building’s banking heritage.