Qatar Wins Approval To Turn Former U.S Embassy Into Lavish Hotel

The Qatari royal family’s property company, Qatari Diar, has won planning approval to convert the U.S Embassy in Grosvenor Square into a luxury hotel.

Westminster Council agreed to the plans proposed by the Qatari Diar, which would see the Grade II listed building extended to span nine stories, three of which will be underground, to create a lavish 137 bedroom hotel. The new complex will also include a number of high-end restaurants, bars, retail units and a spa.

Spectacular: the Qatari’s are ever-present in Mayfair and in the luxury market so the move seems well aligned to their existing strategy
Spectacular: the Qatari’s are ever-present in Mayfair and in the luxury market so the move seems well aligned to their existing strategy

Designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen in 1960, the new plans put forward by ‘star-chitect’ David Chipperfield and engineers AKTII will increase total floor space by nearly 50%, as well as repairing and modernising the front and sides of the building’s façade.

Sheikh Jassim Al Thani, CEO and Chairman of Qatari Diar UK said “A hotel of this calibre perfectly aligns with the vision and ambitions for the neighbourhood and will help to ensure Mayfair retains its pre-eminent reputation as an outstanding place to live, visit and work.”

The Qatari Diar promise in their proposal document to “breathe new life into this significant building and reintegrate it into the heart of Grosvenor Square” in addition to “respecting the historic significance of the Saarinen building and enhancing the inherent architectural ideas and qualities.”

David Chipperfield Architects and AKTII were selected for the prestigious job ahead of a number of big names including Foster + Partners and KPF
David Chipperfield Architects and AKTII were selected for the prestigious job ahead of a number of big names including Foster + Partners and KPF

There was some backlash to the proposals initially.

The 20th Century Society, an architectural conservation group, claimed that harm caused by the design of the proposed new sixth floor would be substantial. The council’s planning committee rejected these arguments and granted planning permission on the condition that the developers remove security fences, gates and bollards installed as a security measure by the American’s in 2006.

The U.S State Department agreed to sell the existing embassy building in 2009 to fund a relocation to the regenerated Nine Elms area near Battersea. Valued at £500 million before being listed, the site wasn’t exactly a bargain, but there are rumours that the Qatari’s paid a much larger sum than that to secure the purchase.

Esteemed developers Ballymore are leading the Embassy Gardens project, last year they announced residents at the 2,000-home complex would have access to a 25-metre long, glass-bottomed ‘Sky Pool’. Ex-London Mayor Boris Johnson called it “the most important regeneration story in London”. Properties in the development start at £600,000.

DMZ thinks the London market should be buoyed by such a statement of intent by our friends in the Middle East. In what is a potentially a tricky and moreover volatile time to invest; post-Brexit, post-Trump and with multiple European elections coming up in 2017, it would be easy for investment giants like the QIA to hold back.

DealMakerz have reported on multiple deals from foreign investors over the past few weeks including the UAE’s Scotland Yard deal and the London Spire skyscraper funded by China’s Greenland Group. Comprising a few Billion pounds worth of investment, these sort of projects are key in the ongoing development and progression in London’s Real Estate market.

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