China to build London embassy fortress on Royal Mint site

The Chinese government is closing in on a new fortress-style embassy, educational and cultural hub in London to strengthen its ties with the UK.

The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China is in talks to buy the historic site of the Royal Mint for a 600,000 sq ft campus.

Delancey and LRC Group‘s Royal Mint Court, EC3, is a 5.5-acre redevelopment project on the eastern fringe of the City, adjacent to the Tower of London. It is expected to have an end value of £750m.

A final decision has yet to be taken and other locations in London are being considered.

Other sites which could accommodate a new hub include the Royal Mail’s former sorting office site at Vauxhall Nine Elms, SW8, near the US government’s recently built 12-storey embassy. President Donald Trump is due to officially open the building next month.

Lendlease and London & Continental Railways’ International Quarter London in Stratford, E20, and ABP’s Royal Albert Dock, E16, would also have capacity for a purpose-built embassy hub, although it is likely a more central location will be preferred.

It is expected new bespoke designs would be created for the project by the Chinese government. In other major global cities, such as in Washington DC, where a 430,000 sq ft campus was built in 2009, it has drawn inspiration from traditional Chinese architecture when creating its purpose-built embassies.

Delancey and LRC Group secured planning consent for a Sheppard Robson and Morrow + Lorraine-designed scheme at Royal Mint Court in July 2016.

It includes 550,000 sq ft of refurbished offices across five buildings, 50,000 sq ft of shops, cafés and restaurants, and 1.8 acres of landscaped public realm. Works are yet to begin.

The Chinese embassy’s London headquarters is presently at 49-51 Portland Place, W1, a 20,000 sq ft building owned by the Howard de Walden Estate.

It has five other offices in London for visa, commerce,
culture, science and technology, and education functions, all of which would be consolidated.

In 2014, the Chinese government ditched a similar plan to create a 1m sq ft campus for the embassy and other Chinese institutions in Manchester.

Advised by Deloitte Real Estate, it created a shortlist of potential locations including the former ITV Granada Studios, which Allied London is redeveloping, and the former Manchester Metropolitan University Aytoun campus, where Capital & Centric and Henry Boot Developments are bringing forward their £250m Kampus project.

A source said: “They were looking at building a self-contained fortress compound set-up, where they could cohabit their outputs, a sort of campus.

“Manchester City Council was never that keen. The project was very hostile in terms of its design, permeability, and from a public perspective would lock down a section of the city.”

CBRE is advising the embassy on its London requirement.

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