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Foster saves Commonwealth Institute from demolition - by turning it into flats

Norman Foster is to convert The Commonwealth Institute in west London into luxury flats as part of a new £150 million development.

The move, which reportedly involves Chelsfield Partners buying the Kensington High Street site from landowner the Ilchester Estate, will effectively save the Grade II*-listed building from the threat of demolition.

A cloud of uncertainty has hung over the 1962 building for years and fears for the future of the RMJM-designed institute intensified last summer after Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett tried to get the landmark delisted (Government U-turn clears way for shock Commonweath Institute demolition).

Since then the government has backtracked, saying it no longer wants to remove the building's listed status (Government backs down over delisting plan), and it now appears that Foster and Partners plans to retain the fabric of the main block as part of its wider redevelopment proposals for the site.

It is understood the practice wants to convert the original tent-like building - which some sources still claim has a leaky roof - into luxury apartments, while building new blocks elsewhere on the site.

In a statement, the Commonwealth Institute said: '[We] have been working for more than a year with Addison Developments Limited, a company wholly owned by the owner of the freehold interest, the Ilchester Estate, and with Foster and Partners for the development of the Kensington property.'

by Richard Waite

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