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Financial Times: Ronson to revive ‘Heron City’ with new South Bank bid

By Jim Pickard,Property Correspondent
Published: June 6 2007 03:00 | Last updated: June 6 2007 03:00

Gerald Ronson is set to bid for a 5.5 acre site around the Shell Centre on London’s South Bank which could be turned into a 1m sq ft-plus complex.

The property entrepreneur hopes to revive his plan for a “Heron City” mixed-use scheme at the site on the south bank of the Thames which could feature a multi-screen cinema, a hotel, apartments and an array of shops.

It is understood that Royal Dutch Shell, the oil group, has hired agents CB Richard Ellis to review its options for the land around its headquarters and no firm decision has yet been made. However, a sale process is likely to go ahead within weeks.

Other likely bidders could include Land Securities, the developer, which held tentative talks with Shell last year.

Shell first mooted a revamp of the site back in 1997, planning to develop the ground floors and surrounding land. The building has a vast basement which includes shops and an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

In 2002, it selected Lend Lease of Australia to carry out a £180m project which would create 510,000 sq ft of new space. The scheme never took off, due to planning delays and a weak office market.

Heron, Mr Ronson’s private company, was the underbidder then and is keen to have another tilt at the site when it goes on sale.

“We had lined up AMC to run a 24-screen cinema there as part of a bigger scheme, we got down to the final two bidders and they picked Lend Lease. With us it would have been finished by now,” he said in an interview with the FT.

Heron was one of the underbidders for the US Navy’s former headquarters at Grosvenor Square, sold last week for £250m to Richard Caring, the garment entrepreneur and owner of restaurants including The Ivy.

Mr Ronson said the company was also part of a consortium shortlisted for Chelsea Barracks, bought by Qatari Diar and Christian Candy for about £900m a month ago.

Heron will this month start the demolition of the former Norton Rose headquarters in the City of London where by 2010 it will have built one of the capital’s tallest skyscrapers. The 663ft, 43-storey Heron Tower will be built despite predictions of a flood of new office supply at the end of the decade.

“We built speculatively because we have confidence in the (rental) market, it is not arrogance, that’s how to make money in this business,” said Mr Ronson.Stratreal

Separately, Heron said it would resubmit plans later this year for a project at the Barbican in the City. It will feature a 44-storey residential tower and new accommodation for the Guildhall School of Music.

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