London Venues: Working capital

A raft of developments are set to change London's skyline for ever. Mike Fletcher assesses the benefits of these projects.

In March, deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and Mayor of London Ken Livingstone addressed an international property conference at MIPIM in Cannes and told delegates that almost £100bn of planned investment is set to change the face of London over the next two decades.

Many of the infrastructure projects form a key part of London's 2012 Olympic Bid. The Olympic Park in the Lower Lea Valley, east London, already has planning permission, a £22m funding package has been secured for the site's VeloPark and preparation work has already started on the Olympic Aquatics Centre. Both venues are scheduled for completion by 2008.

"London is already delivering on major projects across the capital and bidding for the 2012 Games has helped us to secure added investment for London, giving us a lasting legacy from the bidding process," Livingstone told delegates in the south of France.

Other development projects referred to by Prescott and Livingstone include completion of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link by 2007. This will deliver an Olympic Javelin Service from Kings Cross to Stratford, home of the Olympic Park. The service will aim to deliver a train every fifteen seconds into the heart of the Games in just seven minutes, with a total capacity of 240,000 people an hour. In addition, the East London Line rail extension is due for completion in 2010 and will transport 10,000 passengers a day, while the construction of Terminal Five at Heathrow Airport will have the capacity to handle 30 million passengers annually when it opens in 2011.

Regardless of Olympic ambitions, the capital continues to re-invent itself and Visit London often refers to the city as changing almost daily when marketing the expanding offer to overseas business.

Just last month, London's newest hotel event space opened its doors on Albert Embankment, overlooking the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye. The 394-room Riverbank Park Plaza has already become one of the city's top ten corporate and private event locations in terms of size of venue, and is the beginning of an additional 20,000 hotel rooms planned for London over the next five years.

The £120m four-star property claims to offer five-star facilities that comprise two ballrooms, which can accommodate 900 and 560 guests for receptions or be divided into various sizes of syndicate rooms. The hotel's jewel, however, is the Thames Room situated on the first floor, complete with natural light provided by floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on to 180 degree views of the river. The space can accommodate 450 guests.

London's newest museum event space is located at the Cabinet War Rooms and is dedicated to the ninety-year life of Sir Winston Churchill, in this, the 40th anniversary year of his death.

The £6m Churchill Museum was opened by the Queen on 11 February and is situated in the basement of the Treasury building in Whitehall. Agency Sodexho Prestige is offering groups of between 250 and 350 delegates private use of the 930sqm museum and Cabinet War Rooms. The Churchill Museum provides organisers with a number of historic rooms including a 120-seat auditorium, the Harmsworth Room, which can host 150 for receptions, and the Switchboard Room for smaller parties of up to 50 for a reception.

Elsewhere, event organisers are eagerly anticipating the completion of development projects across the whole of London's changing infrastructure.

These include a mixed residential, commercial and leisure scheme planned for Kings Cross in north London and based around the Channel Tunnel Rail Link; London Riverside, a large development area extending six square kilometres along the north bank of the Thames in east London, and a major regeneration project centred around the Dome in Greenwich. Projects such as these will continue to change London's skyline and offer event planners a wealth of extra opportunities throughout the coming years.

Meanwhile, a number of established venues currently under refurbishment also plan to reopen to coincide with the infrastructure changes that are taking place around them.

The Roundhouse in Camden will open its doors at the end of the year but will not be available to host product launches, award ceremonies, receptions and conferences in its blank canvas space until September 2006. The venue, which has been undergoing redevelopment since May 2004, will have a capacity of more than 2,000 for events and in excess of 1,000 for dinners. It will boast a cafe, bars and a studio space for up to 250 people, and, in association with its artistic programme, the Roundhouse Gallery will also host corporate hospitality packages.

Arsenal Football Club's 60,000-seat stadium at Ashburton Grove in Islington is also on schedule for completion by September 2006, in time for the start of the 2006/7 football season. The Emirates Stadium project, which spans three sites totalling 31 acres, will cost £357m and offer expanded corporate facilities. In the central tiers 150 corporate executive boxes will accommodate 2,000 guests in configurations of ten, 12 or 15 seats. Glass-fronted restaurants with seating for up to 3,200 people will also be available for banqueting and conferences.

"The development of Arsenal's new stadium will stand as the benchmark for hospitality and events in London," said a spokesman at the Stadium Experience, a marketing consortium of football stadiums from around the UK. "It will also raise the profile of sporting venues as the pinnacle of modern event venues. As a top-quality addition to the Stadium Experience team, the venue will be in the unique position of being able to draw from the wealth of knowledge among our members and deliver its own brand of quality and service."

BATTERSEA

The £1bn redevelopment of Battersea Power Station will take place in two phases. The 38-acre site, due for completion by 2008, will be transformed into a leisure destination with shops, restaurants, bars, cafes, a 16-screen multiplex cinema and an auditorium with capacity for 5,000 people.

The following year, a dedicated conference hotel will be linked to the auditorium and be able to host banqueting and awards ceremonies for up to 3,000 guests. A second hotel, to be operated by Grand Hyatt, will comprise 460 rooms and provide banqueting space for more than 800 delegates.

"The venue's former Boiler Room will be transformed into a large events and exhibition space and we are talking to potential operators for the conference hotel," says developer Parkview International director of corporate communications Ian Rumgay. "We are also talking with event organisers to be able to mould the details of the offer before we enter into advanced proceedings. The London Venue Expo will be the first time we have actively marketed the proposals in a face-to-face environment."

London Venue Expo show director Simon Burton: "I am old enough to have visited Battersea Funfair as a boy so I've grown up with the notion of Battersea as an events setting and the power station itself as an indelible part of London's iconography. 2008 cannot come quickly enough. The power station will not just cement London's status as a fantastic event city, it will increase it. What's most interesting is the 'mixed use' vision. This isn't simply an event venue in an iconic building, this is residential, leisure, retail, commercial and entertainment in one of the most famous parts of London's skyline. Moreover, the plans have been thoughtful in the way they integrate and where appropriate upgrade the transport infrastructure.

"None of the development has been conceived in isolation. It is wonderfully holistic. The power station will revolutionise the area south of the river and the way we think of event space. It is one of those venues that immediately inspire, when considering what type of events could be held there."

GREENWICH PENINSULA

A major regeneration project costing in the region of £400m and centred upon the Dome Arena is planned, with work starting next month. A joint venture between the Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Government and developer Meridian Delta (a consortium owned by Lend Lease and Quintain Estates and Development) will see up to 10,000 new homes built on a 190-acre site.

Within the Dome itself a world-class entertainment and sports arena, which will seat up to 26,000 people, is scheduled to open in 2007. The Dome Arena will host up to 150 events a year, with a mix of concerts, family entertainment and sport. Dome Waterfront will cover 62,000sqm for ancillary uses to complement the arena and provide leisure, dining, a 635-room hotel and a proposed casino.

Visit London commercial director David Hornby: "One of the key areas for growth in London is undoubtedly the Greenwich Peninsula and the Thames Gateway corridor. The Anschutz Entertainment Group is working on creating the ultimate entertainment destination that London can be proud of.

"At the heart of the project is the 23,000-capacity Dome Arena, which is set to open in spring 2007. The content will be primarily live music events, sport and family shows providing variety at the venue. In its opening year the Dome Arena will host more than 150 events.

In addition, a multitude of integrated corporate hospitality facilities will make the arena an exciting and memorable experience for business entertaining, conferences and exhibitions.

"The Dome is also perfectly positioned to receive international and UK business visitors. Its close proximity and links with City Airport, the new Euro Tunnel link at Stratford and the wider London transport network make it easily accessible for all. Canary Wharf and the City are minutes away on London Underground.

"The main corporate attraction will surely be the VIP corporate hospitality suites, which will be leased on a multi-year basis and are spacious, well appointed and fully serviced. In addition, there is an Arena Club, which is set to host fine dining and an upscale meeting place.

This area will also host large corporate conferences and private dinner events.

"Even when events are not taking place the wider entertainment and leisure district surrounding the arena will cater for any taste. It will include a 2,000-capacity live music club, up to 12 world-class restaurants, sports bar, cinema, theatres, nightclubs, a music hall of fame, exhibition hall and speciality shopping, cafes and bars. In addition, a five-star hotel will grace the north west side of the Dome, with views of the River Thames and Canary Wharf.

"The Dome will become one of London's key entertainment districts for overseas visitors. Anschutz Entertainment Group's plans for the Dome and the surrounding area will enhance this and is commendable - a clear example of London's unwavering commitment to continued improvement. The introduction of this district will create worldwide interest and attract new visitors to London, helping to increase the number of international visitors to both the city and the rest of the UK.

"The opening of the Dome in 2007 will be amazing with fantastic attractions and iconic appeal, making London even more attractive to corporate event professionals."

DOCKLANDS AND SILVERTOWN QUAYS

There are a number of Transport for London-funded schemes that are due to take place in the neighbourhood surrounding Excel exhibition and conference centre. Transport for London and the Department of Transport are looking into a £13bn rail scheme - Crossrail - with two routes crossing central London from east to west and from the north east to the south west. If given the go-ahead the first of these two lines could be operational by 2012.

Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is also planning extension projects such as a new line to London City Airport that opens in November. A DLR line to Kent will then open in November 2008 along with a DLR link from the Stratford International Eurostar terminal straight to Excel. London City Airport, which is located five minutes from the venue's front door, is planning to invest £40m over the course of the next five years to allow passenger numbers to rise from more than 1.9 million this year to 3.5 million by 2010.

Excel chief executive Jamie Buchan: "The green light has now been given for a massive £1.5bn redevelopment of the Royal Docks. The £80m Biota aquarium, operated by the Zoological Society of London and due to open in 2008, is to form the centrepiece of the development and is expected to attract one million visitors a year.

"Proposals also include up to 18,925sqm of leisure facilities incorporating the aquarium plus space for employment, retail, restaurants, bars and a hotel. The scheme will include the refurbishment and re-use of the nearby Millennium Mill and Grade II-listed Silo D former grain buildings, mooring for barges, improved foot and cycle paths and a new pedestrian bridge.

"The airport's growth, which will include an extended terminal building and additional space for parking aircraft, will be supported by the £130m extension of the Docklands Light Railway. The line is to be extended beneath the River Thames to Woolwich Arsenal, providing a direct rail link from south London to City Airport by 2008. These are exciting times on Excel's doorstep."

WEMBLEY

The skyline of this north London suburb has seen major change with the construction of a 90,000-seat national stadium, due to open in 2006. Should London's 2012 Olympic bid be successful Wembley Stadium will be a focal venue, but it has also been the catalyst for a £1.5bn redevelopment project affecting Wembley Arena and 56 acres of surrounding area. More than 60,000sqm of leisure facilities will comprise a 400-room hotel, shops, bars, restaurants, a multiplex cinema and nightclub. An international casino is proposed, along with a public events space called Arena Square.

Nick Shattock of developer Quintain Estates and Development says: "Wembley will be a high-octane forum of music, sport, high-end shopping and apartment living. The Arena will be transformed by a £32m refurbishment and the development will house one of the biggest cinemas in the UK."

Wembley London director of sales and marketing Peter Tudor: "From the moment the Wembley complex was acquired by Quintain Estates in 2002, ambitious plans to regenerate the area were being drawn up and 2005 has seen these plans start to take shape. The FA-owned stadium is only a small part of the story. All the transport routes are being upgraded and with Quintain owning some 56 acres of land around the new stadium we are delivering a new international destination for London. In the future visitors will spend the day here enjoying the new public spaces, the restaurants and bars, the shops and cinema and staying overnight in one of the hotels.

"Wembley Arena is the most obvious symbol of the changes to come. Closed for a £32m upgrade since January, the building will be reoriented to look out across the new square. And while we are reclaiming the original 1930s architecture of the building, at the same time we will be creating an entertainment venue fit for the 21st century.

"In the meantime, the Wembley Arena Pavilion is ably filling the gap left by the Arena. The semi-permanent structure is a bridge between the old Wembley and what is to come - a thriving entertainment centre that shifts the London focus to the north and delivers a new international destination for Londoners and visitors alike."


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