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June 2015

After a rather unsuccessful life as an office building, London’s iconic Centre Point tower is being converted into an ultra-luxurious residence with unique views over central London.

51 years will have passed by the time the new Centre Point London will be ready for its ultra-high net-worth (UHNW) residents since the time it was built in 1966. 51 years in which the London market has gradually evolved to becoming one of the most popular real estate investment markets in the world.

Originally conceived as on office tower and designed by famous British architect Richard Seifert, Centre Point embodies the creativity of London in the swinging sixties. It was also the first skyscraper in London.

When first built, it stood vacant for nine years and throughout its life as an office building, it was only ever occupied at a maximum of 50 percent.

Now Centre Point is getting a major overhaul which is aimed at transforming the development to finally reach its full potential.

The transformation

In 2011, property investment and development company Almacantar bought Centre Point and began redeveloping the building from office use in January this year to create 82 exclusive apartments and penthouses, complemented with retail and restaurant offerings and centred on a new public square.

Almacantar specialises in large-scale, complex central London developments and with Centre Point, takes on the challenge of redeveloping one of London’s most well-known landmarks.

Cityscape magazine spoke to development director Kathrin Hersel in Dubai last month as the company unveiled the scheme to UAE investors.

“I like a good challenge and Centre Point certainly was a good challenge. It took me nearly three years to get the planning approvals in place,” Hersel says.

“We bought Centre Point in 2011 thinking: this is not an office building, it needs to be residential,” Hersel goes on, explaining that Centre Point’s relatively small footprint of only 4,000 square feet is not suitable for London’s large space office requirements.

Converting the tower into residential use was the obvious thing to do, Hersel says, although admitting that people couldn’t really see it at the time.

Almacantar started construction end of January this year – Brookfield are the contractors – and have started the selling process in tandem. Completion is expected for spring 2017.

Key attractions

“Centre Point is a point of orientation for Londoners. As a listed and iconic building, Londoners know it well,” Hersel says. Partly responsible for this is also its location: right in the heart of London at the intersection of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, a stone throw from London’s cultural heart Soho and surrounded by Covent Garden, Leicester Square and the British Museum.

Another unique trait is also its height: At 117 metres tall, “today’s planning regulations would not allow for such a height,” Hersel explains, as a consequence of which all of Centre Point’s surrounding buildings are much lower. Furthermore, London’s ‘strategic building corridor’ regulation which protects the city’s landmarks such as the Big Ben etc., means no one can build into this area, protecting Centre Point’s unique view.

The tower’s super central location has been somewhat overlooked over the past decade, Hersel adds, but this is now changing to due to the Cross Rail project.

Cross Rail is a massive infrastructure project which will ease travel from London’s airport to the city centre. A station is planned right next to Centre Point. “With Cross Rail it will take 28 minutes to get to Centre Point from Heathrow which is quite unique in London and which will further drive traffic into the city centre,” Hersel explains.

In addition to Centre Point’s luxury apartments, Almacantar are building a new piazza which is something that “hasn’t happened in London for 50 odd years.” Through this, Almacantar says it is addressing a lot of the issues the building faced when it was first built. “For the first time people can now walk from Oxford Street into Soho etc. as before, the building was almost inaccessible,” Hersel explains. With the redevelopment, the previous existing ‘barrier’ between Tottenham Court Road and Covent Garden is now being opened.

Attached to Centre Point, Almacantar is also constructing retail outlets, focussing on restaurants, brasseries, and cafes. The West End has traditionally lacked this much needed retail development, and Almacantar says it has already received an offer for each one of the nine units.

Architecture & design

Conran & Partners are responsible for Centre Point’s re-design. “We wanted a British architect who knew the sixties very well. At the time, London was at the height of culture, theatre and music and we wanted to use the inspiring elements of the sixties to interpret them in a very modern way.”

“We also teamed up with fashion designers Eley Kishimoto who have designed patterns inspired by our building, which we then tried to incorporate into certain areas of the building such as the lift etc. as well as into the apartments,” Hersel explains.

The new Centre Point will have 82 apartments starting at 75 square metres with a generous, 2-floor, five bedroom, 750 square metre penthouse at the top. In terms of price, a two bedroom apartment at around 1,300 square feet sells for 3 million GBP (USD 4.6 million) and goes up to around GBP 55 million (USD 84.6 million) for the penthouse.

In addition to the apartments, there is a wellness and recreation area with a 30 metre pool, gym and spa. Adding to that are business facilities, a private dining area, and cinema room, all exclusively for the residents of course.

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