Battersea Power Station takes wraps off as mall prepares to open
The developers behind the transformed Battersea Power Station ramped up their publicity campaign this week as they prepare for the location’s grand reopening as a giant shopping mall on 14 October.
At a press preview on Wednesday, it became clear just how much work has been done, and also how well it's been done. It has blended a historic and distinctive structure (with huge parts of it completely rebuilt) with the addition of retail and other activities in a way that probably hasn't been seen in London since Covent Garden was repurposed from a fruit and flower market into a shopping destination over 40 years ago. Covent Garden’s rebirth happened just a few years before BPS itself stopped providing power to London and was decommissioned, beginning what became a long period of decline.
After multiple owners and many ideas for repurposing the space, the new development — backed by a group of Malaysian investors — has cost billions of pounds and is now just a heartbeat away from getting over the retail finishing line.
What visitors will find when they turn up late next week is a building that truly deserves the often-over-used description “iconic”. But as well as its unmissable silhouette with its four chimneys, the building and the area around it now make up a thriving neighbourhood with homes, offices (Apple is the biggest tenant), multiple leisure activities, a cinema, events space, a London Underground tube link (partly funded by the developers)… oh, and those shops.
The stores include names like Mulberry Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Uniqlo, Aesop, The Body Shop, Castore, Adidas, Hugo Boss, Theory, Sweaty Betty, Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, Jo Malone London, Space NK, Mango, Adidas, Nike, Zara and Zara Home (just opposite the main building on Electric Boulevard in what’s its biggest UK store to date), and more. Some 96% of the Power Station’s commercial space is pre-let.
The retail space is found in the two giant halls, Turbine Hall A that’s pure 1930s, and Turbine Hall B, which was added when BPS was extended in the 1950s and was created in a more brutalist style.
Some of the retailers have taken very large spaces. And all of the 60 stores and other outlets opening from next week (with 50 more to open this year and next) look undeniably impressive. The Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC) was very active in deciding where each tenant would ‘fit’ in the two halls, and Turbine Hall B, for instance, is notable for the large number of sports brands there.
The company has kept close links to the Power Station’s past with many original features on show and the mall’s ‘artworks’ actually being giant early-to-mid 20th century power station machinery that wouldn’t look out of place in a contemporary gallery.
The halls were busy on Wednesday with construction workers still active and store fit-outs under way. Once the builders move on, BPSDC said that 2,500 new jobs will be created from next week and a total of 20,000 jobs will be created across the entire 42 acre project by the time it's completed.
While the retail mall is opening now, the process of ‘activating’ the site has been ongoing for several years, with the first apartment residents having moved in as far back as 2017 and other areas being opened in the intervening years. But the mall really is the crucial part of the concept, although it’s not the end of the story. Work is still going on with the food hall offer not due to debut until next year.
BPSDC chief executive Simon Murphy at the event on Wednesday paid tribute to the support of the Malaysian shareholders and also the massive amount of work over more than a 10-year period that has gone into returning BPS to its former glory.
Other team members and architects involved highlighted how crucial sustainability has been – and how it's clearly become even more of a must-have since the project began – as well as talking about the importance of having created a community feel in the wider area.
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