The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) — which owns and manages the British military infrastructure — has sold the Old War Office where Sir Winston Churchill worked during World War II for an undisclosed sum. When the sell-off was first announced in 2013 offers in excess of £100m were invited for the property.
The Grade II listed building — whose official address is 57 Whitehall — has around 1,100 rooms spread across seven floors, linked by more than two miles of corridors. In its brochure the DIO suggested the 580,000 sq ft property could be converted to luxury flats, but new owners the Hinduja Group has hinted it is looking at ways of turning the iconic building into a five-star hotel.
The London-headquartered conglomerate, which acquired the War Office on a long-lease in partnership with Spanish group Obrascon Huarte Lain Desarrollos, says its hotel-led refurbishment could also feature apartments, private function rooms and a high-end spa and fitness facility.
The Old War Office building closed in the mid-1980s for refurbishment and re-opened again in 1992 as the new headquarters of the defence intelligence staff. Any remaining workers are expected to move out in around a year, with most operations transferred to the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) main building.
“The building has played an important part in our country’s history and now presents a unique redevelopment opportunity in the heart of Westminster,” commented Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon. “The purchaser will be granted a new 250-year lease to ensure that the heritage and security of the building is well managed.”
Completed in 1906 the neo-Baroque building was, for 58 years, the home of the Government department responsible for the administration of the British Army. When the War Office was abolished in 1964 the building was transferred to the MoD.
Earlier this year GVA was appointed to market the trapezium shaped building. At the time a spokesman for the commercial agent said: “The property represents a trophy asset, a unique opportunity to capture the imagination of developers from the residential and commercial markets around the world. Potential uses for the building following redevelopment include residential and hotel.”
Both the DIO and its agent opened talks with Westminster City Council and English Heritage in an attempt to agree a Planning and Conservation Plan for the building. The sale, which forms part of the MoD’s London Estate Rationalisation is part of the ministry’s ongoing commitment to reduce costs across its nationwide portfolio.
The Old War Office — in which David Lloyd-George and Winston Churchill had offices during both World Wars — has a history only a little longer than its new owners.
Founded in India in 1914 the Hinduja Group has become one of the largest diversified businesses in the world employing more than 70,000 people on almost every continent. Its owners Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja are reportedly Britain’s richest men with a net worth of £13bn each.
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