At each end of Oxford Street, arguably the UK’s most famous shopping district, stands an imposing reminder of the 1960s.
At one end is Centre Point tower, a grade-II listed building overlooking Tottenham Court Road, which is currently shrouded in construction wrapping.
At the other, the less architecturally attractive Marble Arch Tower’s days are numbered: it is due to be demolished in the coming months and replaced with a new tower.
Both sites were in need of a serious overhaul when developer Almacantar bought them in 2011 with the intention of turning them into luxury flats.
The whole area to the east of Oxford Circus is undergoing something of a facelift, driven by the arrival of Crossrail in 2018. But as Kathrin Hersel, Almacantar’s property director, points out, that didn’t make the process of getting planning permission for the new Centre Point scheme any easier.
She says: “None of our schemes are easy. Centre Point took three years to get planning, and you might think all we’re doing is converting offices into residential and building a piazza which sounds quite uncontroversial really, but it really wasn’t because obviously it’s a very iconic building and it’s listed, and a lot of people have a lot of opinions on it.”
The first application to redevelop the building was refused, and the company went back four times with different applications until it was finally approved in December 2014.
Work started on the building in January 2015, and it will be completed in 2017. In total, it will contain 82 flats. “You can see how things are taking place around Centre Point,” Ms Hersel says.
“From autumn this year Camden council will close the roads and the new piazza will be implemented, and the new Crossrail station opened in December. So it is taking shape and people can really see the vision.”
A number of the apartments are understood to have already been sold but as the higher end of the residential market in London appears to be cooling off, has Almacantar missed the boat?
“The projects that we have are so special, so iconic, and in such unique locations, that I’m not worried about their attractiveness to buyers.”
Meanwhile, at the other end of the street, the company hopes to build another iconic building for the London skyline as demolition work began on the Marble Arch Tower earlier this month.
“We will demolish everything there, because it’s not a very loved building,” Ms Hersel says, with a smile. Because of its complexities and position on one of the busiest roads in the capital, the redevelopment of the site is a four-year project.
Almacantar only got permission to build its 18-storey tower because of the size of the existing building – usually buildings so close to Hyde Park are restricted. There will be 54 apartments, as well as outside space, with a seven-floor office building next to it.
– Rhiannon Bury