As Battersea Power Station is undergoing a major transformation into a leading retail and leisure destination, Sam Cotton, leasing director – retail at Battersea Power Station Development Company, discusses the company's plans for the iconic London building.
RF. What drew you to the Battersea Power Station development?
SC. Battersea Power Station is one of the capital’s largest and most eagerly anticipated regeneration projects, mixing the cutting edge with old, residential with leisure and ultimately creating a new town centre for London. It’s such an iconic building and a project like no other. Unique in every sense and an antidote to the homogenised – it was a job opportunity I couldn’t miss.
RF. What makes this development unique to others?
SC. This iconic building that is located on the banks of the River Thames will be open to the public for the first time ever in 2020. Locals and those from around the world will be coming here for numerous reasons, including being able to get inside one of the world’s most recognised buildings. The Power Station has been made more accessible as it is now served by the MBNA Thames Clippers River Bus service, and in 2020 it will have its own Northern Line Zone 1 tube station, helping to put it on the map as a new retail and leisure destination for London. The Power Station itself is a huge attraction given its history and heritage; Open House days have already been a big success with thousands of people entering inside the building that is being restored. When it opens, it is expected to attract more than 40 million visitors per year.
RF. Will a lot of the original building be maintained?
SC. Yes, people may have noticed that the rebuild of the chimneys was completed last year. They are visually identical to the original ones that had to be taken down as they were deemed unsafe because they were badly crumbling after so many years. The inside of the station is being refurbished, keeping as many original features that can be saved – this is something brands and operators really love. The two turbine halls have completely different interiors, reflecting the eras they were built in, and the retail spaces will emulate these. No two units will be same, there will be no anchoring, no clustering and we’ll also be offering units that are under 92 sq m for start-up brands.
RF. What type of retailers are you expecting to attract?
SC. We are attracting all types of brands. The response we have already had from businesses has been incredible – brands and operators really get it. The response from Asia, South Korea and Japan in particular has been very strong, along with the UK and the US. For us, it’s essential to balance the big well-known brands with the start-ups, from the UK and around the world. Apple has already pre-let 46,451 sq m of office space within the Power Station, which they will move into in 2021.
RF. Can you run through the differences between Turbine A and B?
SC. The two turbine halls will have a very different look and feel and will house a vast array of carefully curated brands from around the world in just over one hundred units. Turbine Hall A, which was built in the 1930s and evokes the lavish Art Deco glamour of its era, will be home to the Premium Collection, brands that portray elegance, sophistication and timeless style, while Turbine Hall B, completed in the 1950s, has a sparer aesthetic and will bring together contemporary brands providing an eclectic mix of younger, faster and more diverse names.
RF. How important is it to blend retail, community, leisure and events these days?
SC. It’s essential. There will be more than 250 shops and restaurants across the whole 42-acre development and we want to provide local visitors, residents, tourists, shoppers and workers with a huge variety of places to eat, drink, engage and interact. The Power Station will also be a new food destination for London, with a 3,251 sq m food hall showcasing innovative dining experiences including the latest restaurant start-ups, new concepts and international cuisines. We know this is going to be a destination that will attract food connoisseurs.
RF. Are the retailers you are talking to planning on creating unique retail experiences especially for Battersea Power Station?
SC. The Power Station is very much an experience in its own right. The brands we are engaging with really see the opportunity to do something extraordinary and the Power Station provides the perfect canvas and platform to do it. We are carefully handpicking the brands and operators as we want to offer consumers something very special. Really understanding the customer and delivering what they want forms a core piece of our offer. That means creating an environment that has never been seen before. This involves research, lots of research!
RF. On completion, can you round up what the development will offer visitors?
SC. Once completed, Battersea Power Station will be the third largest retail and visitor destination in Central London, comparable in scope to Oxford Street and just as centrally located. It will be a place for visitors to not just do their shopping but a place to eat at one of the many fantastic restaurants or bars, enjoy the new park being created, simply have a coffee overlooking the Thames or soak in the culture of the instantly recognisable building with tons of heritage. Simply put, it will be a day out like no other.
Sam's portrait: Johnny Stephens Photography