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Great Portland Estates Set To Redevelop French Railways House

Great Portland Estates Set To Redevelop French Railways House
19 July 2023

A 1960s building which was once the London headquarters for French national rail network SNCF is to be redeveloped into Grade A offices.

Great Portland Estates (GPE) and The Crown Estate have exchanged an option which, if exercised by GPE, will provide a new headlease and development agreement to facilitate the redevelopment of French Railways House, as well as 50 Jermyn Street, SW1.

French Railways House, an example of modernist architecture in Central London, could be turned into office and retail space. Make Architects have been appointed to help deliver 66,800 sq ft of Grade A offices over the first to seventh floors and two retail/restaurant units located on the ground floor.


Critics Call French Railways House "A Really Decent Modernist Building With a Serious History"


When it was announced in 2021 that French Railways House would be demolished, some architects and designers took to social media to defend the value of the modernist building. Architecture and Design Critic at the Financial Times Edwin Heathcote said of the news: “This is a shocker. Replacing a really decent modernist building with a serious history with something worse. What a waste; embodied energy, memory, fabric and history.”

Make responded to the backlash by assuring Architects’ Journal that the building no longer “fulfils its basic functions and cannot be made to work efficiently”. However, the scheme will retain the existing foundations and basement and reuse structural steel from the deconstruction of the former building on the site of GPE's new development 2 Aldermanbury Square EC2, which is aiming to save up to 99 per cent of the carbon emissions compared with procuring new steel.

GPE's current interests at French Railways House and 50 Jermyn Street are held on leases expiring in 2053 and 2057 at a combined fixed rent of £13,250 per annum.  The new head lease across both buildings will be for a term of 129 years and geared to 10 per cent of rents received.

Dan Nicholson, Executive Director at GPE, commented: "This is a brilliant opportunity for GPE and The Crown Estate to work in partnership to create best-in-class office and retail space in the heart of St James's. Sustainability is at the core of our redevelopment strategy and we are aiming to set a precedent for London by re-using over 1,000 tonnes of structural steel, creating premium spaces that deliver on the needs of our customers, into a market that is increasingly starved of such exceptional properties."

Picture: a photograph showing the exterior and entrance of the former HQ for SNCF. Image Credit: © David Hawgood via Creative Commons License

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 19 July 2023


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