The Independent London Newspaper

 

31-storey offices next to historic cemetery? Developer plans to turn building into skyscraper to attract Silicon Roundabout hi-tech firms

Artist’s impression of how the tower overlooking Bunhill Fields would look

Artist’s impression of how the tower overlooking Bunhill Fields would look. Below: existing office block

existing office block

Published: 25 November, 2016
by KOOS COUVÉE

A DEVELOPER has submitted plans to build Islington’s latest skyscraper on the fringes of historic burial ground Bunhill Fields.

US firm CIT Group has applied for permission to add 12 storeys to Finsbury Tower, in Bunhill Row, which overlooks the cemetery where poet William Blake and Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe are buried. The extra storeys will raise the tower to a height of 124 metres. It is also proposing to build 25 socially-rented flats in a separate block.

Built in the 1960s, the 16-storey building, design­ed by architect Richard Seifert, is largely vacant. The building’s previous and current tenants include Walkers, Thomson Financial News and the Care Quality Commission.

Previously owned by Hermes Investment Management, it was bought last year by the private equity investor group, reportedly for around £107m.

Architect Richard Seifert. Photo: www.scottisharchitects.org.uk

The firm wants the new building to appeal to hi-tech businesses in the area around Old Street, dubbed Silicon Roundabout.

The sale of the tower represented a massive profit for Hermes, which bought the building in 2013 for £67.3m from Middle Eastern owner HNS Group. 

The rocketing value reflects the level of demand for office space around Old Street, which is popular with tech and creative firms and has seen rapid rental growth due to a lack of available office space.

If given permission, Finsbury Tower will become the latest in a series of massive office developments around the roundabout. 

A new £76m, 237,000sq ft office block, known as White Collar Factory, is nearing completion at the junction of Old Street and City Road.

In February, former London Mayor Boris Johnson overruled the Town Hall and granted planning permission for four office blocks – including one 11 storeys high – overlooking Bunhill Fields.

Islington Council argued that demolishing the 1960s office block Monmouth House, in City Road, and putting up the new buildings would cause “significant harm” to the grade I-listed park, classed as a “garden of special historic interest”.

But Mr Johnson said they would provide much-needed space for the growing tech sector in the area.

A decision on Finsbury Tower will be made in the new year.

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