'Toast rack' skyscraper planned for London

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 17, 2013 7:04 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - London's eclectic skyline already boasts the Gherkin and the Cheesegrater, and now it could be joined by a skyscraper that looks like a toast rack.

The planned office development, which has also been likened to a giant set of books on a bookshelf, would be comprised of 10 "vertical slices" of between seven to 34 storeys tall in London's City financial district.

Located in Leadenhall Street in the insurance industry's heartland, it would be 170 meters (558 ft) tall at its highest - 10 meters shorter than the nearby Gherkin - and cost 391 million pounds ($623 million) to build.

Developer Henderson Global Investors said it would consist of 890,000 square feet of offices and 20,000 square feet of shops. Construction is planned to start in 2015, on the condition that it pre-lets 30 percent of the building, with completion targeted for 2019.

Henderson bought the development plot, known as the Leadenhall Triangle, out of administration in 2011 for more than 175 million pounds. The value of the building once fully let could be between 800 million and 1 billion pounds, property experts said.

The building is "a vote of confidence in the City of London and a major boost to investment, growth and employment in the economy", said Henderson's director of property development, Geoff Harris.

A source close to the futuristic development referred to it as the "toast rack". Other nicknames include "Gotham City" from the Batman films.

Henderson's plans come amid a split in the office letting market in London's financial district with developers in the EC3 postcode district having more success among the relatively buoyant insurance industry versus the more broadly weak state of financial services firms and banks further afield.

The owners of the nearby Walkie Talkie skyscraper, which attracted headlines this month after sunlight reflecting off its glass cladding melted parts of a Jaguar car, said in July that they expect the tower to open two-thirds full next year on the back of strong demand from insurers.

Outside the insurance industry's heartland, construction on the 100 Bishopsgate tower, owned by Canadian developer Brookfield and the Pinnacle skyscraper, backed by Saudi Arabian investment manager SEDCO, has stalled amid a fruitless search for tenants.

Henderson will submit its plans to the City of London local authority on September 23. It hired Make, the architect behind UBS's headquarters in the City, to design the development.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh and Tom Bill; Editing by Pravin Char)