Over the past five years, Londoners have grown accustomed to charting the upward rise of a whole host of new skyscrapers. Cranes and sprouting concrete cores have climbed ever higher on their progression towards completion, transforming the city skyline in the process.
The second installment of our two-part series on future development trends in London moves the spotlight onto the City of London.
London’s City of Towers
The wind of change that has been blowing through the City of London is undergoing an evolution of its own. Exacerbated by the seismic changes within the economy over recent years, and fueled by sustainability concerns, redevelopment in the Square Mile on a grand scale could become a thing of the past.
In an interview in June Peter Rees, chief planning officer for the City of London, said: “There is probably more square feet of offices in the world than will be needed for at least the next two generations or so. Therefore it is unlikely we will need to build many more towers in the City. There will be a couple more maybe. It’s interesting to see what will emerge in its place but it is certainly not what we’ve known for the last couple of generations.”
There are a number of skyscrapers that are currently under construction. These include the ‘Cheesegrater’ (122 Leadenhall Street), and the ‘Walkie Talkie’ (20 Fenchurch Street), which are both due for completion in 2014. Yet problems for projects already under construction or at the planning permission stage are rife.
Both 100 Bishopgate and the Pinnacle have been put on hold this year, due to respective problems with pre-letting and development finance. Planned before the financial crash, these towers have come up against the drying up of credit lines, coupled with a collapse in the pre-let agreement market that makes them financially viable.
So the future looks likely to be centred on refurbishment as opposed to redevelopment. Modern redevelopment of buildings that generally stem from the 1970s or later means stripping them out completely: retrofitting them with a modern, sustainable and more efficient replacement.
This is something that both the former and current Government are trying to promote via changes to business rates tax. As in 2008, relief for companies who possess empty office space has been removed. The thinking behind the reform was that there would no longer be an incentive to keep unused office space – effectively incentivising companies to make the most of the space they have.
One example of the desire to renovate as oppose to recreate is One Angel Court. American pension fund TIAA-CREF has had plans approved which will double the amount of floor space in the building. The redeveloped 1970s tower will also meet 2013 energy standards, which will improve energy efficiency and cut running costs. The development is expected to start next year, with a completion date set for 2016.
So whilst the development of tall towers beyond the Square Mile is set to continue unabated, the City has for now seemingly brought to a close the trend of building up, calling time on a decade of distinctive skyward expansion. Leaving the clouds in peace, for now.