The Social Hub: Scottish entrepreneur makes £90 milllion bet on Glasgow city centre as new hotel opens

The story behind Glasgow’s new city centre landmark hotel with student rooms and coworking space.
'We believe that by bringing people together, we create a better society,' says MacGregor. Picture: Rachel Ecclestone.'We believe that by bringing people together, we create a better society,' says MacGregor. Picture: Rachel Ecclestone.
'We believe that by bringing people together, we create a better society,' says MacGregor. Picture: Rachel Ecclestone.

For Charlie MacGregor, it’s good to be back in Scotland. He was raised in an entrepreneurial family in Edinburgh - his father developed the first purpose-built student accommodation block in the 1980s with the University of Edinburgh, and expanded this activity across Scotland and England. Charlie’s company, The Social Hub, is based in Amsterdam with an expanding footprint across Europe, but the taste of home he misses most is Scottish crisps. He has had the chance to reacquaint himself with local flavours while overseeing the debut of his £90 million, 20,000-square-metre hybrid-hospitality hotel at Candleriggs Square.

At just under 500 bedrooms and with more than 200 co-working spaces, the firm’s 18th property to launch in Europe to date is the biggest hotel in Glasgow. A rooftop terrace will open in the autumn, there is a gym and a performance space, a restaurant and bar.

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Opening in Glasgow is a declaration of intent for The Social Hub as a business eyeing further expansion. Building a landmark building in a gap site in the Merchant City is also a vote of confidence in the future of Glasgow’s city centre. Why choose here for their first hotel in the UK? “Glasgow is an amazing city, you see how creatives are flocking here. It has a good start-up mentality as a city. From a property developer's point of view, there is a lot of opportunity here. There are big plots of land in the city centre that are empty. It doesn't happen in many city centres these days. So there's a lot of growth potential, which is really interesting.

“From our point of view, we looked at the student market - there are good universities that are ranked high internationally. Alongside that, there are a lot of big corporates. It’s also a super cool city to be in at the moment in the UK. The seeds were sown in what we saw a few years ago.

“The city made us feel like this project was possible, they understood the model which was about attracting the next generation of talent and integrating with the local professional community through coworking. One of the best meetings I had in my career as a developer was in Glasgow.”

The Social Hub has dedicated parts of the hotel for long-stay and student guests alongside coworking offices and facilities. There is also substantial public space, building a local community around the venue is part of their business model. I ask Charlie about their hybrid hospitality offering. “It’s why we are different” he says. “We have 494 hotel rooms here. 250 are student rooms during the academic year, the students live here, it’s like their home - there’s a laundry right in the middle of the lobby. That means that you as a hotel customer who comes in for one night, you feel that you're in somebody's home.

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“There's something in the energy that you just think this is different as a hotel customer. So as you are able to relax. We have the offices for coworking and that will integrate us into the fabric of Glasgow - businesses and freelancers will be using this building daily. For business travellers, this will be the best corporate hotel in the city.”

How will the hotel’s bar and restaurant make a mark on the Glasgow food and drink scene? “I want us to serve amazing food but the hospitality side will be about bringing people together and that’s what we will work on with the staff. I think we have a great concept for the rooftop bar and restaurant that we will open towards the end of the summer. It’s gong to be really exciting.

“Downstairs, there is a lot of meeting and event space, a big theatre with 300 seats. We want to make sure we are catering to what customers need, it won’t be your standard hotel offering.”

Charlie says family and friends have been in touch about his new Glasgow hotel: “It’s a big moment for me, to be honest, to come back to the motherland. I’m going to be here with family, I am looking forward to showing my kids a Scottish hotel.”

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He wants The Social Hub to quickly become a meeting place for Glaswegians: “We are a hotel with an open door to the local community, we want people to come in and feel connected to everybody. That will be at the heart of the building.

“There’s something in the air when you arrive at The Social Hub. We can’t tell you what it is but everybody walks in and thinks “this is going to be fun”. That’s my most exciting part, seeing those reactions.

“This building is beautiful, but it needs the energy of all those youngsters and professionals, locals and hotel people.”

The Social Hub is opens today at 15 Candleriggs, G1 1TQ

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