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$16.5 Billion Mega Development In London Is Transforming The City

London’s century old Battersea Power Station is being restored with Apple as an anchor tenant.

By Jeff Vasishta December 5, 2016
Anthony Coleman/The Battersea Power Station Company

Dubbed Dubai-on-Thames or Mini Manhattan, London does development a little differently from most other places. Rather than demolish and rebuild, it’s currently in the midst of a $16.5 billion redevelopment of the historic Battersea Power Station and the surrounding neighborhood. It’s the largest development the city has undertaken in thirty years. Apple has signed as the anchor tenant, taking up 40 percent of the commercial space for their 1,400 UK-based employees.

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The prominent red brick chimneys of the power station, usually set against London’s overcast weather, has been a feature of the city’s skyline since it was built in the 1939. It has been featured in pop culture throughout the years – notably in the Beatles’ 1965 film “Help!”, on the cover of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album “Animals,” and in the 2010 film “The King’s Speech.” The former coal fired station was decommissioned in 1983 and despite attempts to re-purpose it, has sat largely vacant.

The new renovation of the two million-square-foot building is part of the Battersea Power Station development, which will see hotels, apartments, roofs gardens, stores and more over the next decade. But that project—which should run to $9.9 billion—is a part of the overall $16.5 development in the surrounding Nine Elms district, which will include more residential and commercial complexes. The actual restoration of the power station will cost $1.26 billion and will be completed in 2021 by Malaysian architecture firm, WilkinsonEyre.

Apple will take up residency in the former boiler rooms. Architect Frank Gehry has designed two of the currently under construction apartment complexes, which will feature infinity pools and a view of the Thames. At the foot of the building he has also designed a public square and park leading to a new subway and bus station.

If you’re thinking about being a part of the luxury development, so far, 85 percent of the residential spaces are sold out. The three-phase development, which has been in the works in one form or another for over a decade, “was a lot like designing a mini city,” WilkinsonEyre’s director, Sebastien Ricard, told Business Insider. The US Embassy’s decision to relocate the development helped to bolster the development.

The Power Station represents the part of the Nine Elms’ larger and dramatic transformation. Once a run-down and sketchy part of South London in the borough of Wandsworth, it was known in past decades for its hulking, crime-ridden housing estates. Now, over 54,000 new homes are slated in Nine Elms, many which will cost more than $1 million.

Property Vision founder Charlie Ellingworth told The Guardian: “Londoners are beginning to discern a skyline that is quite out of scale with anything they are used to.” And while local buyers are “squeezed further out and into ever smaller spaces with mortgages they are not quite sure how they will ever repay”, the property business is booming. “For developers and their dependent ecosystem of estate agents, architects, lawyers and builders, it has been a one-way super-bet.”

Peter Rees, the City of London’s former head of planning, has described the area to The New York Times as “a high-value ghost town.”

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Considering much of London is in a socio-economic crisis, dedicating only 15 to 16 percent of the Nine Elm’s development to affordable housing—a lottery for household incomes below $75,000 year for apartments starting at $790/month—has stoked the ire of housing rights groups in the city. Their concern is that wealthy overseas investors will simply use the new buildings as a place to park their cash while the properties sit vacant. It has already become one of the most expensive developments in other parts of London.

A luxury few of the population can afford.

Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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