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TfL bid to sell off HQ as flats undermined by own experts

Transport for London’s plans to sell off its Grade I-listed headquarters as luxury flats has been undermined by an expert report it commissioned arguing that the building can be kept as offices

Last summer TfL said the landmark 1929 building over St James Park Tube station at 55 Broadway, designed by London Underground architect Charles Holden, was ‘no longer fit for purpose as an efficient office building’ and announced a design competition to convert it into flats. The contest saw the appointment of architect TateHindle last month to work up a scheme observers have estimated could net TfL more than £120 million.

However, a 2012 study by conservation specialist Richard Griffiths Architects concludes the building, dubbed London’s first skyscraper, could be modernised to provide ‘good refurbished offices’ for the government body.

The report, commissioned by TfL and seen by the AJ, argues there is also an opportunity to ‘reverse negative aspects’ of a 1980s revamp and ‘restore the clarity’ of Holden’s original vision.

It also suggests that the refurbished office building could accommodate more staff, offer improved retail and restaurant facilities and open up its upper-floor terraces to staff and the general public.

‘These provide splendid vantage points for views over St James’s Park, Westminster, Whitehall and a magnificent panorama of London, and would allow visitors to see at close quarters this exceptional 20th century building,’ the report adds.

The building fabric features many references to its purpose as the capital’s transport headquarters, including motifs on its facade and a series of dials indicating the frequency of trains on its ground floor.

Heritage groups have called on TfL to rethink its position, while historian Gavin Stamp led criticism of the plans. Stamp said: ‘Holden, along with [TfL forerunner] the London Passenger Transport Board, had a strong public service ethos, so it seems particularly wrong that 55 Broadway should be privatised and dedicated to the rich.’

‘There are enough luxury apartments around, and such use will deny public access to the Holden interiors [which are]worth seeing.’

Catherine Croft, director of the Twentieth Century Society, said the society was concerned that residential conversion would prevent public access and damage the building’s architectural detail.

She added: ‘The building was designed as offices and has been so used for over 80 years. Though it may need updating, the best use remains its original use as offices.’

TfL, which is due to vacate the premises in 2015, said it had considered ‘every potential option’ for the building with office, hotel and residential uses all evaluated. A planning application is expected to be submitted this autumn.

TfL commercial development director Graeme Craig said: ‘We recognise the historic value of the building and the need to carefully ensure that any future use enhances its historic features. We remain committed to securing a future for the building that ensures it remains a valued part of the fabric of London.

‘We also have a responsibility to fare and taxpayers to make sure that any redevelopment of 55 Broadway is a commercial success, with all proceeds reinvested in London’s transport network to deliver increased and improved services.’

Previous story (AJ 01.05.14)

TateHindle wins contest to turn London Underground HQ into homes

AJ100 practice TateHindle has won the contest to transform London Underground’s Grade I-listed headquarters at 55 Broadway into homes

Transport for London (TfL) launched the search for a team to overhaul Charles Holden’s iconic 1929 landmark – once the tallest office block in the city – in August last year.

TfL is due to quit 55 Broadway in 2015. It says the building above St James’s Park tube station is ‘no longer fit for purpose’ as an efficient office location. TfL added that it had ‘considered every potential option for the building with office, hotel and residential uses all being evaluated’.

Graeme Craig, TfL’s commercial development director, said: ‘We remain committed to securing a future for the building that ensures it remains a valued part of the fabric of London. We also have a responsibility to make sure any redevelopment is a commercial success, with proceeds reinvested in London’s transport network.’

A planning application is expected to be submitted this autumn.

Previous story (AJ 07.08.13)

TfL seeks architects for London Underground HQ homes conversion

Transport for London has launched its tender to transform London Underground’s Grade I-listed headquarters at 55 Broadway into homes

TfL said staff are due to leave 55 Broadway in 2015 now that the building, located above St James’s Park tube station, is ‘no longer fit for purpose’ as an efficient office location.

The building was designed by Charles Holden and built between 1927 and 1929 and has been London Underground’s iconic headquarters for more than 80 years.

TfL considered potential office and hotel developments before plumping for a residential scheme, which it said would ‘not only deliver the best value for fare and taxpayers, but it would also be the most suitable option for the Grade I listed building to maintain its internal and external heritage’. The tender is valued at £8.5million.

Mike Brown, managing director, London Underground and London Rail at TfL, added: ‘We take our responsibilities for our heritage assets extremely seriously.

‘We also have a responsibility to fare and taxpayers to make sure that any redevelopment of 55 Broadway is a commercial success, with all proceeds reinvested in London’s transport network to deliver increased and improved services.’

TfL will initially lead the planning application and the listed building approval process rather than using an external developer.It expects to appoint the architects in October 2013.

The building was listed Grade II in 1970 and upgraded to Grade I in 2011 by English Heritage on account of its outstanding national historic and architectural interest.

Site facts

  • The building was commissioned in the 1920s by The Underground Group who wanted Broadway to reflect its ‘bold vision of the future of transport in London’. Architects Adams, Holden and Pearson were given the task of creating a groundbreaking design
  • The site at St James’s Park Tube station was challenging because of its irregular shape and the District and Circle line only 7.3 metres below. The solution was a cross-shaped layout, allowing pedestrians to walk through the ground floor of the offices, across the station booking hall, providing a short cut between Victoria Street and St James’s Park
  • Above ground, the building was faced with 78,000 cubic feet of high quality Portland stone.  Contemporary artists were invited to sculpt decorative features into the stone facade, carved on site. Two are just above street level and a further eight are above the sixth floor windows on each side of all four wings.
  • The Royal Institute of British Architects awarded 55 Broadway its 1929 London Architectural Medal
  • During WW2 the west wing received considerable damage as a result of bombing. It was rebuilt without Portland stone facing which was not available at the time. The Portland stone was reinstated in 1963
  • 55 Broadway was refurbished in the 1980s. The exterior stone work was cleaned, the windows replaced with exact replicas, and a new street-level shopping mall allowed the reopening of the eastern entrance to the building.
  • London Underground owns the freehold interest in 55 Broadway, 100 Petty France and the wing over the station and holds a long occupational lease of Albany House. 55 Broadway is a Grade I Listed Building which lies within the Broadway & Christchurch Gardens Conservation Area

 

Readers' comments (4)

  • refurbishing the building as offices is clearly better than adding balconies to the facades for smokers living in apartments, perhaps even for drying their washing in those hot summer months

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • So if a major reason for refurbishing the Holden masterpiece as offices is to provide/ensure public access to view the all important interiors just how extensive would that have to be /or how extensive could it be ?
    and would that access be extensive enough to warrant that use therefore?
    I agree with Peter Dews reasoning on the introduction of balconies-lessons learned from first hand experience of high rise life as I understand
    John Aitchison

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I reckon it should include Lost Property, Complaints, the Café and Terrace at least

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  • perhaps even a travel bureau, buy an 'original tube map' and top up Oyster cards ?

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