In a move that has been met with a mixed reaction, the world famous Admiralty Arch in London is to be sold off on a lease by the Government and converted into a luxury hotel to rival even the Ritz.
The structure forms a gateway between the Mall and Trafalgar Square and has stood since 1912, a tribute to Queen Victoria from her son Kind Edward VII (who sadly did not live to see it completed). It was designed by Sir Aston Webb and constructed by John Mowlem & Co, historically one of Great Britain’s largest and most successful construction firms (at one point the owner and developer of London City Airport).
The Arch figured highly in the Royal Wedding route for Prince William and Kate Middleton and was used as part of the course for the Olympic marathon runners. In previous years it has been the home of the First Sea Lord and the heads of the Royal Navy.
In 2000 the Arch was occupied by the Cabinet Office of the Labour government, in addition to their Whitehall offices, and it became home to the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit and Social Exclusion Task Force. Eleven years later and recession forced the current Government to abandon the premises and look to lease them out.
The result is reported to have been a £60m deal for development company Prime Investors Capital (PLC) to take the building on a 99 year lease. They want to transform the landmark into a 100 bedroom, 5 star hotel with subtle exterior lighting, royal and presidential suites, a ballroom, spa and fine dining restaurant. Residential apartments are also planned for the first and second floors on the north side of the arch.
Although £60m may sound fairly cheap for a building of this stature (particularly relative to the London property we highlighted in last month’s ‘in case you missed it…’), the deal is partly to ensure the continued preservation of the building. Having been empty since 2011, it is falling into disrepair in parts and the renovation project ahead could potentially cost tens of millions of pounds on its own.
Cabinet Minister Francis Maude comments:
“It’s a really great shame that in the 100 years since it was opened there has been virtually no public access to the arch outside of government officials.
“When we came into office in May 2010 it was clear that without significant renovation, the arch was at risk of falling into disrepair. This would have been a tragic waste of a historic building.
“We were determined to find a real purpose to Admiralty Arch, one that would preserve it for future generations and would generate value for the taxpayer.”
Should Westminster grant planning permission for the adaptations to the Grade I listed building, London looks all set to gain another world famous attraction.