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Battersea Power Station, the largest brick built structure in the whole of Europe, has been a closed shop for the last twenty seven years. Now, however, the building could be about to re-open – not as the power station of yore, but as prime commercial property in which to place executive office space.
The building has been bought and sold on numerous occasions since the station shut down in 1983, yet nothing has been made from it – until now. The Grade II listed building is described as being in a “very bad” condition by English Heritage. Now, Real Estate Opportunities (REO), which bought the property four years ago, is set to put forth a proposal to revitalise the station, turning it and the surrounding area – known as the Nine Elms area of south west London – into three thousand and seven hundred new homes, develop a new retail centre, and create over two million square feet of executive office space for businesses to rent. Whether all this will actually come to pass, of course, is the big question, but Real Estate Opportunities appear to be determined to bring the project to fruition. They admit, however, that they are going to need not just approval but also investors for what it estimates will be a project costing around four and a half billion dollars.
“Battersea Power Station is our standout project but now we need a major international partner,” says the managing director of Real Estate Opportunities, Rob Ticknell. “We have had lots of expressions of interest, from sovereign wealth funds, private equity firms and even some pension funds.”
Their application for planning permission for the project will be heard by Wandsworth Council next month, although the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has already made cautiously approving noises about the idea, describing them as “encouraging”. “This key part of the capital is the biggest development opportunity remaining in London and the power station is one of London’s much loved historic landmarks,” Johnson says. “It is vital that we get the redevelopment of this site right…. Nine Elms will be quite possibly the most important regeneration story for the whole of London over the next twenty years. We want to use the opportunity of this fantastic new development to put in two new stations on the Northern Line.”
One problem for the developers, however, is that the Mayor has already made it clear that the government will not be paying for the tube extension, meaning REO and those who are set to redevelop Covent Garden and the new US embassy (which should be finished by 2016) to pay for it themselves.
“There has been significant progress on the plans to extend the Northern Line,” Ticknell notes. “Last month, Transport for London signed off (on) the plans, saying that the project was fit for purpose – it is a big step and shows that TFL is behind the plan. The Mayor is also behind the project and we think there would not have been the commitment of support from the authorities unless there was a real expectation that private financing could be found.”
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