The Battersea Power Station is looking to recharge.
This story first appeared in the December 8, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
A massive project to redevelop the Thirties-era former power station and the surrounding Nine Elms district in south London launched this fall with global events including a New York party featuring a performance by Sting, who revealed that he and wife Trudie Styler have already snapped up an apartment in the complex, which will include retail, residential, office and leisure/entertainment.
In its quest for retail tenants, the Battersea Power Station Development Co. hosted exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Milan, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Doha.
“One of the purposes of launching in the most exciting and creative cities around the world was to introduce the unique commercial and residential opportunities at Battersea Power Station to a whole new generation of entrepreneurs and creative industries,” said Joanne Skilton, head of leasing at BPSDC.
“Even before the global launches, the level of interest in both commercial and residential opportunities at the Power Station was strong, but over the course of the last few weeks, the number of people interested in taking retail premises or making a home with us has soared,” she added, speaking a month after the launch.
Skilton had attended a cocktail reception to mark the kickoff, held at the Paris residence of Britain’s Ambassador to France, Sir Peter Ricketts, on Oct. 29. A scale model of the ambitious proposal, with an estimated budget of 8 billion pounds, or $12.5 billion at current exchange, was set up in the venue’s gilded ballroom.
A total of 3.5 million square feet of commercial space is available for leasing, the majority of it inside the power station, which has been out of commission for 31 years. The landmark has appeared on everything from the cover of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album “Animals” to the video game “Grand Theft Auto: London.”
The mixed-use scheme will feature residential buildings by architects including Norman Foster and Frank Gehry.
A consortium of Malaysian property development and investment firms is financing the project. Real estate firm SP Setia owns 40 percent, multinational Sime Darby has a 40 percent stake and sovereign pension fund Employees Provident holds the remaining 20 percent.
“It took someone very brave to take the site on. Lots of people have tried and failed,” said Skilton. “I think what’s been amazing about working with the Malaysians is not only do they have great vision, but they have great credibility in their own country about delivering projects.”
The urban quarter, spread out over 42 acres, will be built in seven phases. By 2025, it is projected to house up to 25,000 residents and workers, while attracting an estimated 40 million visitors per year.
Rob Tincknell, chief executive officer of BPSDC, said retail would play a key role in the development.
“Shopping will play a huge part in determining the footfall and attractiveness of the venue and for this reason, we are keen to talk to businesses and brands that are interested in doing something a little different at Battersea,” he said. “Through our discussions with retailers we will encourage them to offer an experiential, unique proposition that will enhance the Battersea experience for our customers.”
Phase 1, due to open in 2016, includes 40 retail and food and beverage outlets. Inspired by London shopping districts with a village feel, this area is meant to resemble a Marylebone High Street. Food stores and restaurants will be set in a mix of refurbished railway arches and brand-new units facing the Power Station and River Thames.
Phase 2 will see the opening of around 90 shops over three floors of the two Turbine Halls in the Power Station, whose four chimneys will be dismantled and re-created in the meantime. That space is set to open in 2019, at the same time that two new underground railway stations will be completed nearby.
“I think it will be a real mix. I don’t think it will be exclusively luxury, but everything we do is extraordinary. We don’t do ordinary, so what we really want to do is create something that’s very bespoke,” said Skilton, using the “We Don’t Do Ordinary” catchphrase that is being used to market the project.
This area will also include a projected 30,000-square-foot fashion hub to nurture young talents.
“We’d like to work with new budding graduates who leave, say, the London College of Fashion, and support them in terms of helping them work together and produce garments,” Skilton explained.
“In terms of our vision, we would have a collective of graduates that would work in the fashion hub, and in the evening, they would then turn that into maybe a fashion show, and at the weekends they could do something like Rent-a-Rail, where everything they produce, they actually sell,” she added.
“Ultimately, what would be lovely is if someone could actually start their business there as [part of the] incubator and then one day have a shop at Battersea Power Station,” Skilton said.
A further 50 commercial units will become available on Phase 3. Due to open in 2020, it will be a high street designed by Foster + Partners and Gehry Partners linking the new underground railway extension to the rest of the development.
In addition, the project will feature office space and leisure facilities including a new 2,000-capacity event venue, two boutique hotels, an observation lift and viewing platform, cinemas, members’ clubs and health and fitness.
Skilton noted that fashion brands Victoria Beckham and Vivienne Westwood already have their headquarters in Battersea, and the U.S. government is building an embassy in the area, due to open in 2017.
“The feedback we are getting from prospective customers is that the central London location, the brand power of the Power Station itself and the fact that it is a genuine mix of uses — homes, shops, offices, leisure — makes it a very compelling proposition for a London address,” she said.