After months of speculation, Bloomberg, the leading provider of business and financial services information has committed to purchase a long-leasehold on the 3.2 acre Walbrook Square development scheme in the City of London from the sites current owners, Legal & General (L&G). The American media company, majority owned by the current Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg will build a brand new 500,000 sq ft European headquarters on the site of Bucklersbury House in the heart of the square mile, which will allow for the groups planned future growth.
As part of the new scheme, the US development manager Tishman Speyer, who replace London based Stanhope will also construct a speculative office building, however no further details have been revealed as to potential floor space or occupiers. Whilst the previously approved scheme by Atelier Foster Nouvel was for 895,000 sq ft of Grade A office space, there will be a greater emphasis this time around on public space and retail, which was previously set at 64,000 sq ft; however any secondary building will still be of considerable size.
The site has had a troubled recent past after Spanish property developer, Metrovacesa was forced to abandon the development on the back of the global credit crisis and pay L&G a £100m cancellation fee, having previously agreed to buy the long-leasehold of the site for £240m. Since that time Jean Nouvel has also been dropped from a planned redesign, which will now be penned solely by Foster + Partners, with Norman Foster himself set to be personally involved on the new proposals.
The previous scheme by Atelier Foster Nouvel
Commenting on the development, Foster said the following: “The project is an opportunity to create a bespoke, sustainable new headquarters building for Bloomberg, while at the same time creating an opportunity to improve the public realm in the very heart of the City of London. We aim to create a building that will be of its time and place, whilst establishing a distinctive presence for Bloomberg.”
As part of the new development, the developers will also build a new, fully accessible entrance to Bank station from Walbrook Square, which will provide direct access to the Waterloo & City line via up to four new escalators and two lifts. Construction of both the above and below ground development is expected to be completed in 2015 at which point Bloomberg will start to move its 2,300 employees across from its current London home at nearby 39-45 Finsbury Square.
Bloomberg’s new headquarters will not just contain the usual open plan floors that have become the norm in the City and Canary Wharf but will likely contain a new auditorium and conference space, extensive recording studios for Bloomberg Television and space for the firms new media teams.
The debate around JP Morgan’s unconfirmed plans to ditch its Riverside South headquarters has left many questioning London’s continued role as a global financial centre, however Europe accounts for 40% of Bloomberg’s total worldwide revenues, with the company viewing the UK capital as the central hub from which to continue its expansion in the region. Worldwide, the company is expected to increase the number of terminal subscribers, which underpins Bloomberg’s revenue stream to a record 300,000 users by January 2011.
Bloomberg’s Chairman, Peter Grauer summed the situation up, making it clear that the decision makers, those with their fingers on the button, still see London as one of the leading global business and financial centres in the long-term, saying: “Bloomberg's London headquarters has always been an integral part of the company. This new project underscores our commitment to London and to expanding our presence in this world-class financial capital.”
Demolition specialists, McGee are already on site taking down Bucklersbury House, the first post-war office scheme in the City of London to break the historic 100 ft height restrictions and do away with the ancient street pattern, yet now seen to be obsolete as a viable commercial office space when viewed against modern City schemes such as the Walbrook, which sits directly opposite. Demolition is expected to rumble on well into next year, with Bloomberg likely to appoint a construction manager in the second half of 2011 ready for a start on site date that’s currently pencilled in for early 2012.