US & UK Relations Tested By London Property Deal

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The US government has decided to sell their landmark Embassy located in the heart of London fashionable Mayfair district at 24 Grosvenor Square. The building which was constructed in 1957 is said to being sold for £300 million ($500 million) to £400 million. The new owners will be Chelsfield Partners, a property investment company backed by the Qatar Investment Authority.

The deal for the developers would have been ideal as demolition of the huge concrete building would have created numerous high end luxury apartments in one of the most sort after areas in London.

In a cruel twist the Minister of Culture Margaret Hodge has slapped a preservation order on the building awarding it a Grade II listing meaning that demolition would be impossible.The UK minister for culture appreciated that this move could be construed negatively by the US and said

“I should begin by assuring you that the Secretary of State is fully aware of the sensitivities of this decision in the context of the embassy’s possible move to a new location,” she wrote. A US embassy spokesman said that while it opposed the listing, “we respect the decision.” He added: “This does not affect our ability or schedule to sell the building.”

The embassy, built between 1957 and 1960, was put forward for a listing by the Twentieth Century Society, a conservation group that tries to go against the tendency of politicians to wave through the demolition of the large concrete-and-glass structures favoured by high-profile architects after World War II.

Meanwhile whilst the US government digested the bad new The 20th Century Society who put forward the building for preservation was overjoyed.

Catherine Croft, a director of the group, said she was “very pleased” by the listing, although she said that the modernist building, which was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, wasn’t necessarily appreciated by the public. “It’s an architectural masterpiece and an elegant addition to the square. I think that [buildings like these] will come back in fashion soon,”

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