When does “regeneration” become “over-development”?
Central Croydon may be able to offer answers to that question by the end of this decade, after the latest development announcement which includes another 1,000 flats in and around St George’s Walk, Segas House and the Nestlé Tower.
A report in Estates Gazette this week said that, “Delancey is seeking a development partner for a 5.5-acre residential-led regeneration scheme in the heart of Croydon”.
Delancey is a real estate management company which, with the help of Qatari money, bought the Olympic Village in 2011. It also owns Minerva, who hold the key Allders building on the Whitgift Centre site, and who were the principal objectors at the Compulsory Purchase enquiry held in Croydon earlier this year.
Minerva already owned the listed Segas building on Wellesley Road, beside Queen’s Gardens, and this autumn they spent £10 million to buy Croydon’s first skyscraper, the Nestlé Tower. Industry sources suggested that they got this as a bit of a bargain.
The Nestlé Tower has been standing, festering, for more than three years since Nestlé, the borough’s biggest private employers, packed their bags and quit Croydon after rows with the Tory-led council and its senior executives.
The 24-storey Tower was designed by Ronald Ward and Partners and completed in 1964. Legal and General bought the tower from Nestle in 2012 after having obtained office-to-residential planning permission for 311 flats with an end value in the private rental sector of £75million. Minerva, who own the surrounding buildings, put the squeeze on, on this occasion successfully.
“Legal and General could not move forward with the scheme themselves due to Minerva owning the surrounding buildings,” according to Ollie Salter, a surveyor at property specialists Morgan Pryce.
Salter added, in an investors’ note which those running Croydon Council ought to read and digest: “There are ominous clouds above the London’s residential market – especially the private rental sector which may put doubts on the end value of the development.”
The businessman behind Delancey/Minerva is Jamie Ritblat, who has long been demanding that his property interests in Croydon deserve similar attention and assistance as that being offered to Hammerson and Westfield, the developers of the £1 billion Hammersfield supermall, which is being undertaken largely at the behest of majority land-owners the Whitgift Foundation. “It’s in the interests of Croydon that a comprehensive and sustainable solution to regenerate the whole of the town centre is found,” a company spokesman has said.
The Minerva-owned bit of central Croydon has, according to Estates Gazette, “only recently been unlocked after years of manoeuvring between competing developers, but is not set to be a key component of the ongoing regeneration of Croydon”.
Croydon has been here before with Minerva. The company had a previous plan for 1.1-million sq ft Park Place development involving Segas House and St George’s Walk, but this got mothballed when Westfield bustled into town. So much for Croydon Vision 2020…
Many in Croydon may be disappointed at somewhat prosaic designs that have been released for the re-designated Nestlé Tower, while unfunded, wishful-thinking about adapting Segas House for educational use, such as an art gallery or for Croydon College, will remain just that.
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