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The West End continues to thrive and demand the highest rents in terms of retail and office space in the capital. Set to take advantage – and add to – this is the combined investment of The Crown Estate – essentially the Queen’s property company – and a Canadian retirement fund, Oxford Properties.
The proposed development will transform an area of the West End, which is currently used as a vehicular short cut and a service area, into a major £320-million redevelopment. The two current buildings which straddle Regent Street and Haymarket, will be turned into 50,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space and a further 210,000 square feet of office space, and will be renamed St James’s Market. In addition, there will be an open public square of 10,000 square feet off Haymarket.
The Canadian company is an offshoot of Omers, which has recently invested jointly in the London ‘Cheesegrater’ building and in two buildings in St Pauls – King Edward Court and St Martin’s Court. The Crown Estate in fact owns around half of St James’s and in order to invest must join with other investors as it is not allowed by law to borrow funds. Last year it is reported to have made a £240 million profit which was then provided to the Treasury.
Recent Crown Estate partnerships include Norges Bank Investment Management and Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan. The former is a development of Regent Street and the latter a £100-million development, Gateway, also in St James’s.
Sally Brough, Associate Director at Morgan Pryce, states, “It is not hard to see that the popularity of the West End in terms of investment shows no sign of waning. This new deal between the Crown Estate and Oxford Properties demonstrates that the biggest players are sinking their funds into the area. This means the rents are likely to remain high, reflecting that this is where businesses want to be.”
Other high-profile Canadian investors include the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which is involved with Land Securities on the Victoria Circle development near Victoria station.
Morgan Pryce is a specialist tenant acquisition agent with offices in Oxford Circus and the City. Morgan Pryce specialises in search, negotiation and project management and works exclusively for tenants.