The Battersea Power Station, one of London’s iconic “superstations” and the largest brick building in Europe, was, at its peak, a structure hailed for its distinct design and its ability to provide enough energy to power a resurgent London over the course of five decades.
But since closing down in 1983, the building has been largely unused. Developers with grand plans to redevelop the site came and went, with none of them able to go past the planning stages. Then, in 2012, a trio of Malaysian investors—SP Setia Berhad, Sime Darby Property and the Employees Provident Fund—purchased the property for £400 million, pledging to transform the Battersea Power Station not just into a sprawling multi-purpose destination, but into London’s hot new neighborhood.
It’s not just a building, it’s an amazing place that we’re trying to create with this rich variety of amenities.
Today, as the site is approaching its third phase of development, the £9 billion Battersea Power Station will have well over 8.5 million square feet split equally between commercial uses and residential. This will include shops, hotels, arts spaces, luxury apartment buildings (including one designed by Frank Gehry), and enough commercial office space, the developers say, to make it “the largest new office district in Central London.”
A global tech giant has agreed to lease approximately 500,000 square feet of office space in the central Boiler House of the Power Station. The singer Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, have already purchased a property at the development. And a new London Underground station and River Bus stop have been created especially for the Battersea Power Station. Once the site finishes all eight stages of development, the Battersea Power Station will be repurposed into a premier destination in Central London.
“We want to be the best-known new district and the home to all of the creative industries,” says Andrew Hilston, head of office leasing at Battersea Power Station Development Company. “It’s not just a building,” he adds, “it’s an amazing place that we’re trying to create with this rich variety of amenities.”
The Potential of Industrial Spaces
Repurposing industrial stations into dynamic properties is nothing new in London.
Long before the Tate Modern became one of the preeminent museums of international modern art, it was the Bankside Power Station in Southwark. Like the Battersea Power Station after it, the Bankside Power Station was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, best known as the designer of London’s iconic red phone box and the Waterloo Bridge (although Scott only designed the exterior of the Battersea Power Station).
Before the Tate Modern opened in 2000, designers stripped the Bankside Power Station down to its original steel structure and brickwork. The turbine hall was converted into the museum’s entrance and the boiler house was transformed into the galleries.
In Chelsea, the Lots Road Power Station, which once generated electricity to power the London Underground, is currently being repurposed as a 37-story tower with 821 apartments and a waterfront space bordering the Thames that will be open to the public. Shops, restaurants and bars will be situated on the ground floor of the power station, which will be renamed Chelsea Waterfront. Like the Battersea Power Station, Lots Road is owned by foreign investors (Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa bought the station in 2002).
“Historic buildings like power stations have an immense attraction to foreign buyers who love London’s history and aesthetics,” says Sir Terry Farrell, the designer of the Chelsea Waterfront, in a 2015 interview with the Financial Times.
A Micro City Grows in Battersea
“There isn’t anything like the Battersea Power Station in Central London,” says Hilston. Therein lies the allure, he adds. Aside from being visually striking and instantly recognizable—it was famously featured on the cover of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album “Animals” and in the 2010 film “The King’s Speech”—the Battersea Power Station’s industrial appeal is a draw for tech companies that are looking for high-quality (and highly unusual) Grade A space.
It’s going to be an exciting future and it’s going to be a fantastic new district.
“Tech and media companies across London don’t always want to be in traditional locations. They want the opportunity to individualize, and we’re able to provide all of those things,” says Hilston.
The extension of the Northern Line to include a new stop at the Battersea Power Station is another draw.
“There’s a really strong transport proposition here,” says Hilston.
Hilston says more office space inventory could be added given the initial popularity of Battersea Power Station.
“It’s going to be an exciting future and it’s going to be a fantastic new district,” says Hilston.
07 August 2015 by Amanda Smith