The People’s Republic of China has completed a “landmark purchase” of the former Royal Mint site in Wapping, Tower Hamlets, which will be used as the country’s new UK embassy.
An official ceremony was held on Friday, May 18, to mark the transfer of the embassy from 49 Portland Place in Westminster, where it has been for 141 years. Speaking at the event, ambassador Liu Xiaoming said the move represented “the fresh golden fruit of the China-UK ‘Golden Era’.”
“Today’s event, I believe, has given a new meaning to the Royal Mint Court, that is, RMC also stands for the Right Monument of China. Standing in front of the new Chinese diplomatic premises, I feel deeply that we are living this Right Moment of China and we are witnessing the Right Monument of China.”
The new property, which is believed to have cost over £200m, was selected in part for the added security the fortress style building will provide.
The Chinese delegation bought the 5.4-acre site from developing body Delancey and commercial real estate company LRC Group, which jointly owned the asset.
Paul Goswell, Managing Director at Delancey, said: “We are delighted with the People’s Republic of China’s decision to transform Royal Mint Court into their new London embassy.
“The scale of the buildings, coupled with the unparalleled history and large area of amenity and public realm, make it one of a kind in the City of London and undeniably perfect for the needs of a prestigious embassy. We wish the People’s Republic of China all the very best in their new London home.”
Despite the enthusiasm of all parties, extensive refurbishment and partial redevelopment is required before the actual move goes ahead; work which will include the installation of over 600,000 square feet of office space.
Previously home to the Royal Mint, the site was England’s primary creator of currency from 1810 to 1967.
The sale follows a recent trend of Chinese purchases on the London property market. China was the biggest foreign buyer of London real estate in 2017, investing £7.34billion according to figures from research firm JLL.
This is largely due to a combination of land ownership laws in China and the liquidity of London’s property market.
A self-declared ‘modern Communist state’ with capitalist enterprises, private land ownership is banned in China, but their economy has still allowed for the creation of an affluent upper class.
Looking for places overseas in which to invest their spare income, many individuals select London, as with the world’s most liquid property market, the capital is the easiest place to quickly convert property assets into cash.
Foreign investors bought 3,600 of London’s 28,000 newly built homes between 2014 and 2016, 9.6% of which were in Tower Hamlets.