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Colonial 'Steuart House' to become boutique hotel

Over 175 years old 'Steuart House', a colonial building in Colombo 01 that houses the head-quarters of George Steuart & Co. Ltd, the country's oldest mercantile institution, will shortly be transformed into a boutique hotel, George Steuart Group Chairman Dilith Jayaweera said.

"We are currently waiting for the Board of Investment (BoI) approval for the project and once we get it, the project will start immediately. We expect the hotel to be completed within one year," Jayaweera said.

Jayaweera's investment vehicle, Divasa Equity, owns 70 per-cent of George Steuart & Co. Ltd. According to him, it makes much more business sense to convert the landmark building into a 50-room boutique hotel, since the government has identified the Colombo Fort area lobe a designated zone for entertainment and leisure activities. The property located in front of the country's Central Bank will be converted to a boutique hotel under a "Scottish theme" and the investment is estimated at Rs.300 to Rs.350 million. A mix of internally generated funds and bank borrowings will be utilized for the project.

Nishantha Munasinghe, who designed Citrus Hikkaduwa, a listed resort hotel controlled by Jayaweera, has been selected as the chief architect of the project and once completed it will come under Citrus management.

"When it is completed, access to the hotel will be granted from both the Central Bank and Fort sides," Jayaweera said. Currently, access to the property is granted only from the Fort side since the entrance from the Central Bank side is located in the high-security zone. Meanwhile, the offices currently located in Steuart House will be shifted to a location in Dharmapala Mawatha. Steuart House comprises of two interconnected buildings—one which was built during the time of the founders of the company, James and George Steuart, facing the Central Bank, and the other built isolate 1950s, overlooking the Dutch Hospital.