The group, headed by the London chamber of commerce, is two weeks away from publishing a business plan in a bid to secure £150m of funding for the project. The group also has a B-list of sites that includes Wembley, the Millennium Dome and Stratford. The location of the convention centre is expected to have a serious affect on local rents and regeneration prospects.
Central to the launch will be a plea to deputy prime minister John Prescott and the incoming mayor for around £50m of public money to get the project off the ground. According to one well-placed source, the development will cost around £150m to build and the coalition has already drummed up ‘informal’ private sector commitments of up to £100m.
Based on a report written by Ove Arup, the plan says that existing facilities in London are inadequate. ‘The QEII and the Barbican... are unable to offer the size and flexibility often required for large international meetings,’ it says.
The business plan, which Property Week has obtained, claims that the centre needs to be ‘truly world-class... and be capable of accommodating meetings of over 10,000 delegates’. In comparison, the QEII’s main hall capacity is 1,100, while the Barbican has 2,000.
The coalition – which includes English Partnerships, London First, London Tourist Board, London Development Partnership, Kings Cross Partnership and the Science Council – will argue that the centre is vital to keep the UK competitive with the rest of Europe. The plan says that ‘by international standards, meeting venues in the UK are perceived as being relatively small... and generally not offering highly flexible facilities’ required by corporate businesses.
A convention centre at King’s Cross could have a dramatic affect on the local property market. Because of the dowdy image of the area, King’s Cross rents lag behind its neighbours at Euston and Holborn. According to Tim Cameron-Jones, West End letting agent at CB Hillier Parker, if a large office scheme was developed on the back of the centre, ‘rents could potentially reach the late £30/sq ft level’. Cameron-Jones said that King’s Cross’s excellent transport links could command a premium. In comparison, the latest deal up the road at British Land’s Regent’s Place on Euston Road fetched £34.50/sq ft.
Building a convention centre at King’s Cross may not be so simple, however. While it offers a huge site that could accommodate the proposed 35,000 sq m (376,740 sq ft) centre, the landowners London & Continental Railways and NFC are already working on plans of their own. LCR said this week that a centre must fit into the wider masterplan which will be drawn up for the site. It also warned that its land holdings will not be released until 2005.