DHAKA: Architect Rienzo Piano calls the European Union’s new tallest building a ‘vertical city’, but when his stunning Shard tower opens over London Bridge it will house the equivalent of a whole vacant neighbourhood.
The elongated 87-storey glass pyramid, built atop a train station in a scruffy neighbourhood near the Thames, will open on Thursday, reports Al Jazeera.
Developers will have to fill 26 floors of vacant office space at a time when rents are at the flattest in at least 50 years.
Rents for the best offices in London’s financial district have been $85.80 per square foot since September 2010, property consultant CBRE said.
That is the longest period of flat rents since its records began in 1960.
The building was built with funding by the royal family of Qatar, rather than a publicly listed firm, said John Cahill, a property analyst at Investec.
The Shard is just one of several skyscrapers now sprouting across London with nicknames that reflect the silhouettes they cast on the skyline.
With a financial crisis having blown in since architects first came up with designs for the ‘Walkie Talkie’ and the ‘Cheese Grater’, lettings have been muted.
‘The only reason rents haven’t started to fall is the relatively low level of available space at the moment’, said Kevin McCauley, head of central London research at CBRE, who expects rents to remain flat for the rest of the year.
Developers say a wave of lease breaks and expirations over the next several years will prompt tenants to move into well-appointed new offices.
If the climate is bothering the Qatari funders of the Shard, they did not say so at an opening event on Wednesday.
‘Recovering our investment is a minor thing at the moment’, said Sheikh Abdullah Bin Saoud Al Thani, governor of Qatar Central Bank.
The development cost of the Shard, a neighbouring office building called The Place and communal areas around London Bridge train station is about $2.4bn.
‘We have confidence in the London market and a long relationship with London’, he said, emphasising that a slowdown was part of a normal economic cycle.
BDST: 1712 HRS, JUL 5, 2012
Edited by Robab Rosan, Cultural Affairs Editor
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