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June 09 2011

Battle for City's Broadgate site hots up

William Hill giving odds that Jeremy Hunt will not save 'historic' 1980s complex from demolition for new UBS headquarters

Expectations have increased that furious lobbying from the City is likely to prevent the listing of the 1980s-built complex in Broadgate that has become a tug of war between financiers and conservationists.

For the first time bookmaker William Hill has opened a book on a building listing and is giving 4-7 that culture secretary Jeremy Hunt will not save the complex.

English Heritage last week recommended that the entire 1980s development, designed by architect Peter Foggo, be given statutory protection at Grade II* level, dealing a major blow to British Land's plans to tear down 4 and 6 Broadgate to make way for a new "groundscraper" building that would house a £340m headquarters for Swiss bank UBS.

Although the law states that the listing decision should be made on the basis of architectural and historic factors alone, Hunt is under pressure from the City of London corporation to ignore his official adviser and choose not to list it.

The City argues that the new scheme is vital to maintain confidence in it as a banking centre. Hunt's decision on Broadgate is due in about two months' time, after submissions from British Land, the local authority and other interested parties.

A spokesman for William Hill said this was the first time it had offered odds in a listing case. "We believe this decision will be as difficult to call as a photofinish but English Heritage needs to upset the odds to come out on top."

The City of London Corporation had approved British Land's 700,000 sq ft scheme, and building was to start this summer, with UBS planning to move in by 2014. The corporation's policy chairman, Stuart Fraser, is due to meet communities secretary Eric Pickles next week to lobby for the UBS building. He said: "The Broadgate buildings aren't worth preserving or listing. They aren't of great architectural merit. Listing Broadgate will send out the wrong message. UBS would probably give up. Eric Pickles is very keen on bureaucracy not getting in the way of economic development."

Catherine Croft, director of heritage group The Twentieth Century Society, which is campaigning in favour of listing, expressed surprise at the odds. "I think it is fairly extraordinary because it suggests that William Hill thinks factors other than the accepted criteria [for listing] may affect the minister's decision," she told weekly trade paper Building Design.

"City boys do like gambling of course but Hunt needs to make his decision on the basis of architectural and historic interest. It would be very wrong for him to be affected by any other factor."

Croft added that she believed there were many other locations in the City suitable for the proposed UBS building, which has been designed by one of the architects responsible for the Gherkin, Ken Shuttleworth of Make Architects.

The planned building, at 5 Broadgate, would boast four trading floors each capable of holding 750 traders and has been described by Shuttleworth as an "engine of finance" with a design resembling an immense machine-tooled block of aluminium.

A spokesman for Hunt's Department of Culture, Media and Sport, noted that it was responsible for regulating both heritage and gambling. "It is always good to see two areas of DCMS come together but, as we always say when it comes to gambling, don't bet more than you can afford to lose," he said. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

June 03 2011

English Heritage deals blow to £340m UBS office

Watchdog backs listing of Broadgate buildings, where the Swiss bank wants to demolish its existing HQ and build a new one

British Land's plans to build a new £340m headquarters for Swiss bank UBS at Broadgate in the City of London have been thrown into doubt after English Heritage recommended the listing of the site on Friday yesterday.

The watchdog said Broadgate Square, designed by Peter Foggo, then of Arup, in the 1980s, is "one of the most important and successful developments of its period and type, possessing special architectural and historic interest, and therefore should be listed at Grade II*".

It added: "Rare for commercial developments, people enjoy Broadgate Square – in this sense, it is a triumph of urbanism, a special place in the financial heart of the capital."

British Land and its private equity partner Blackstone want to knock down 4 and 6 Broadgate and replace them with a new European headquarters for UBS. It has argued strongly against a listing of the two buildings, which are less than 30 years old, saying they were not of high quality and did not possess sufficient special interest to warrant their listing.

The developer also pointed out that the Broadgate arena and octagon had been extensively altered in the last few years and that the arena, which houses an ice rink in the winter, sculptures and open spaces would be retained.

The decision is now in the hands of the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and is expected in about two months, after submissions from British Land, the local authority and other interested parties. Ministers accept the majority of English Heritage's recommendations, although last week they refused to endorse its advice to list the 1970s Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Maidenhead, and in March overruled it on ABK's 1970s Redcar library.

The City of London Corporation had approved British Land's 700,000 sq ft scheme, and building was to start this summer, with UBS planning to move in by 2014. The corporation's policy chairman, Stuart Fraser, acknowledged that Broadgate Square "embodied the newfound dynamism of the Square Mile post-Big Bang," but went on to warn that listing the estate "would damage the City's reputation as a leading global financial centre".

British Land said: "A decision to list would block the £850m investment in Broadgate, raise the question of where to locate 7,000 permanent banking jobs and put at risk more than 5,000 construction jobs, which would be created over the next three to five years, along with the associated economic activity and growth it would generate.

"It would send out a message to the world that London is not 'open for business', undermining the City of London's status as a global business centre." © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

October 25 2010

London 'cheesegrater' project revived

Land Securities, Britain's biggest property developer, last week said it would restart work on a 37-storey building known as the Walkie Talkie in nearby Fenchurch Street

Decisions taken by property developers to go ahead with the "Cheesegrater" and the "Walkie Talkie" towers in the City will see London's skyline transformed in the next few years. The buildings, due to open in 2014, will be among the tallest and the most striking skyscrapers in the capital since Swiss Re's Gherkin opened in 2004.

British Land, run by former Barclays banker Chris Grigg, said today that it had teamed up with Canada's Oxford Properties to build the 47-storey Leadenhall Building, nicknamed the Cheesegrater because of its wedge-shaped profile.

It is the second major project in the Square Mile to be given the go-ahead within a week, a sign that confidence is returning to the City property market. Last week rival Land Securities, Britain's biggest property developer, said it would restart work on a 37-storey building dubbed the Walkie Talkie, reflecting its shape and sloping sides, in nearby Fenchurch Street after signing a £500m deal with Canary Wharf Group. Both towers were put on hold during the credit crunch when the market ground to a halt as banks slashed jobs and cancelled office relocations.

Other leading developments include the Pinnacle, also known as the "Helter-Skelter," and Heron Tower on Bishopsgate, due to open early next year, as well as the Shard at London Bridge. Two others have recently been completed: St Botolph and the Walbrook, both by Minerva.

British Land, the UK's second-largest developer and landlord, has struck a 50-50 joint venture with Oxford Properties Group, the real estate arm of Toronto-based Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, one of Canada's largest pension funds, to build the 610,000 sq ft Cheesegrater for £340m. Designed by Richard Rogers' firm, it will be one of the tallest buildings in the City and will stand on stilts to open up the space below for public use. The storeys vary in size from 21,000 sq ft at the bottom to 6,000 sq ft at the top to accommodate various tenants.

Both skyscrapers are expected to be finished in the second quarter of 2014, when many leases expire in the City. Neither has secured any tenants yet although insurance group Aon is thought to be talking to both Land Securities and British Land. Its lease expires in 2014 and it is looking for about 250,000 sq ft. Both developers stress that they do not need pre-lets to push ahead with the buildings.

"We welcome the start of an additional office development, given our positive stance on quality office space," said Harm Meijer at JP Morgan.

The recession forced developers to mothball most projects, but commercial property market has recovered since last summer, with the weak pound fuelling demand from international investors and a shortage of prime office space boosting rents. Office rents in the City have rocketed by almost 25% this year, the strongest recovery in rents since records began 22 years ago, according to NB Real Estate. Average rents for prime space increased from £42.50 a sq ft in the first quarter to £53.00 a sq ft in the third.

The Walkie Talkie will have 690,000 sq ft of office space as well as 23,000 sq ft of retail space. While the two towers will need to generate £45 to £50 per sq ft in rent to break even, analysts believe they could command rents of around £60 per sq ft, delivering a healthy return to the developers.

On Thursday, the City's first major shopping centre opens in the shadow of St Paul's Cathedral. Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, who created the Serpentine gallery pavilion this summer, One New Change was inspired by a US stealth bomber. It hopes to lure tourists and bankers with its Banana Republic and Hugo Boss concessions and Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay restaurants. It will also have 330,000 sq ft of office space. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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