East London will soon be home to one of the world’s biggest Chinese embassies after China announced it is leaving its historical premises in the West End.
China has been based in Portland Place for 150 years, but said last month it will relocate its diplomatic representation to the iconic former Royal Mint.
Situated in front of the Tower of London, the palace, built in 1810, and its surrounding offices have remained empty since the last gold sovereign was struck there in 1975.
The price tag for the embassy is estimated to be more than £200 million, according to the South China Morning Post.
The 2.2-hectare site will also feature a new shopping centre and cultural centre, sitting alongside 600,000 square metres of office space.
Developers Delancey and real estate company LRC bought the site from the Crown in 2010 before selling the lot to China.
Once completed in two years’ time, the fortress-style embassy and cultural hub will reportedly be worth an estimated £750 million.
“I am confident that after the renovation, the new premises of the Chinese Embassy will become a new landmark in London and a new face of China in the new era,” said Ambassador Liu Xiaoming.
It is expected new bespoke designs will be created for the project by the Chinese government. In other cities, such as 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.
In 2014, the Chinese government ditched a similar plan to create a one million sq ft campus for the embassy and other Chinese institutions in Manchester.
China isn’t the only embassy to move out of the West End.
The US also relocated this year, to a new glass fortress in Nine Elms – which Donald Trump described as a “lousy” and “horrible” location.
East London has undergone decades of regeneration, which accelerated when London was host to the Olympics in 2012.
Chinese property company ABP recently acquired what used to be the Royal Albert Docks – almost 2km of riverfront for offices, homes and shops to rival Canary Wharf. The scheme is due to open in March next year.
Ambassador Liu Xiaoming described the purchase of the old Royal Mint, which first went into production making gold medals for soldiers returning from the Battle of Waterloo, as “a fresh golden fruit of the China-UK Golden Era”.
Referring to the River Thames that the new embassy will face he said: “History is like a river that flows steadily and firmly forward. Follow and keep abreast with its current, we can ride the tide of the times.”
When the East India Company started to trade with China and the East India dock was opened to receive ships, London’s East End district, then a dockside slum, became home to London’s first Chinatown.
DealMakerz reckons the new embassy will help to further East London’s regeneration and propel property prices in the area, which is already almost unrecognisable from its pre-Canary Wharf and Olympics days.