At the moment, it is a corner of London with a chequered past (it was once a site of public executions) and a grotty, rundown and controversial present as a hangout for Romanian travellers living rough in the capital — but the western end of Oxford Street could be destined for a more illustrious future.
Almacantar believes that its plans for the redevelopment of Marble Arch Tower can help to create a new gateway to the West End.
The building is at one of the most prominent locations in the capital — the corner of Oxford Street and Edgware Road — with uninterrupted views overlooking Hyde Park and the northern end of Park Lane. Almacantar and Rafael Viñoly, the architect who designed the Walkie Talkie tower in the City , are developing a scheme that includes 52 flats, 123,000 sq ft of offices, 36,000 sq ft of shops and a new and boutique-style Odeon cinema. Unlike the glass tower at 20 Fenchurch, this plan consists of natural materials, including stone.
The proposal, which will cost £450 million to develop, is being launched today. It will involve the demolition of the 24-storey tower above the Marble Arch underground station that was built in 1967, to be replaced by two towers of 17 and seven storeys. The taller one, which will have artwork on its side to draw people from Oxford Street to Edgware Road, will include flats with shops at ground level, while the other building will provide office space and more shops. New public walkways will also be introduced, making it easier to get to Hyde Park.
Kathrin Hersel, the development director of Almacantar, said the plans would create “two timeless, beautiful buildings, which will serve as a fitting gateway to Oxford Street”. She said it was such an important and prominent site that it would act as a catalyst for the improvement of the West End of Oxford Street, a thoroughfare that attracts 15 million people a year.
Almacantar will also provide affordable housing a mile away on Edgware Road, designed by Sir Terry Farrell, who has lived in the area since the 1970s. The scheme will comprise 76 homes, of which 47 will be affordable, with the remainder available for private sale. A disused petrol station on the site will be reinstated, becoming one of the few new filling stations to be built in London in recent years.
Almacantar said that it planned to submit its proposals to Westminster Council next month and, depending on planning permission, construction could start in 2015 and be completed by 2018.