Meet the man behind London’s era-defining BBC Television Centre

Alistair Shaw talks about the iconic redevelopment and the potential of the project for global investors

Alistair Shaw of Stanhope Plc

“The sense of history and genuine awe you get when you are inside really is amazing,” says Alistair Shaw of BBC Television Centre in White City, West London, one of the most iconic buildings in the United Kingdom and, indeed, the world.

Shaw is the managing director of Stanhope, the acclaimed developer responsible for a number of landmark projects in London, the latest of which is the ultra-ambitious USD775 million overhaul of the centre following the BBC’s sale of the facility in 2012.

The mammoth project, which will encompass 950 residential units, a cinema, hotels, restaurants, 46,450 sqm of office space, bars, a gym and open public space, is slated for completion in 2020, but phases of the development are expected to be operational before then. The area will also be home to a new branch of exclusive members’ club Soho House, complete with a rooftop pool, terrace, and hotel.

Stanhope is actively marketing the ambitious development to buyers worldwide. And Shaw is confident that global recognition of the BBC brand, and the building in which so many of its classic shows were produced, will capture the imagination of Asian investors.

An aerial view of the new Television Centre

“We are excited to bring to life these iconic and much-loved buildings to create a great place to live, work and visit as part of the regeneration of the White City area,” he says. “The added glamour of our partnership with Soho House will help deliver Stanhope’s vision for Television Centre as a new centre of gravity for West London.”

Few things are as heady as the dawning of a golden age in popular culture. In 1955 the sight of Bill Haley and his Comets playing ‘Rock Around The Clock’ in the film The Blackboard Jungle ushered in the rock ‘n’ roll age. Meanwhile the early works of radical directors such as Robert Altman, Brian De Palma and Peter Bogdanovich cleared the ground for the myriad creative pinnacles of 1970s cinema.

In the UK, another defining era – this time in television – was heralded with the opening of the BBC Television Centre in 1960. Over the ensuing decade, the instantly iconic building in White City was ground zero for some of the most influential shows in tube history including Dr Who and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

 

The redevelopment incorporates elements of the original building

As the backdrop to many BBC programmes, meanwhile, the television centre became one of the most readily recognisable buildings of its type. Although Shaw admits that the building and its classic shows are likely to be more ingrained into the psyche of British television viewers than others, he believes that won’t impact upon the desirability of the project to Asian buyers. He points to the all-round regeneration of the White City area, which, in addition to Television Centre, boasts the giant Westfield Shopping Centre and Imperial College London (an institution with strong links to South East Asia), as a key draw for investors.

“As a Brit myself, it is impossible to separate Television Centre from the overall fabric of the country,” Shaw continues. “Television Centre was launched at the outset of the 1960s, which is widely regarded as a pinnacle in UK history. The television shows the BBC was producing were ground-breaking, television was synonymous with a boom in British culture and its export around the world and live global coverage of the football World Cup was pioneered from Television Centre in 1966 – what’s more, England even won the bloody thing!

“Speaking more neutrally, you don’t need to be British to appreciate what is on offer at Television Centre. It offers buyers a genuine opportunity not only to invest into an iconic development which will benefit from extensive amenities and leisure facilities, but also to take advantage of what we would classify as the ‘regeneration uplift effect’ by getting in at an early stage.”

The development will pay homage to the original use of the building and keep many of listed and recognisable features including the famous studios, the atomic dot wall and the statue of Helios, the Greek god of the sun, at the centre of the main central circular block, often referred to by BBC staff as the “doughnut.” The BBC will retain a strong presence at the new facility. BBC Worldwide opened new headquarters there in April 2015 with 1,200 people already working onsite. The world-famous television studios, meanwhile, are set to continue the broadcasting legacy with programme-making and live recordings resuming in 2017.

Stanhope has been involved in the redevelopment process at numerous landmark London projects. These include the transformation of a former electricity regenerating station into the Tate Modern on the south bank of the River Thames and the reimagining of Fortress House on Savile Row, formerly the home of English Heritage. According to Shaw, the transformation of Television Centre has been one of the firm’s most testing briefs yet.

“I guess we like the more complicated jobs,” he laughs. “Usually with demolition jobs it is a fairly straightforward process. However, the design of the original Television Centre is closely integrated. Therefore, it has been painstaking work to preserve all these original and listed features.”

As onerous as the process of redevelopment has been, there appears to be little missing from the final mixed-use goal. The residential component of Television Centre will range from stylish studios and penthouses to family homes. Private residents, meanwhile, will benefit from a range of luxury amenities including 24-hour concierge, residents lounge, screening room and meeting rooms. Leisure facilities will spill out onto the famous landscaped forecourt, which will host regular cultural events, such as a farmers’ market and music concerts.

“Our views are that prices in the area will only go up as a result of the work that is being undertaken, coupled with the fact that the area already benefits from strong infrastructure and is within a stone’s throw of the most successful shopping centre in Europe,” concludes Shaw. “These are all important considerations for your typical Asia-based investor looking to buy into the London market and find genuine capital appreciation.”

If Shaw is correct, Television Centre looks likely to offer a sound long-term investment at the luxury end of the London market. It goes to show that Auntie – the affectionate nickname for the BBC – still knows best.

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