Marking one of the most anticipated sales launches of the year, the Hinduja Group is bringing Europe’s first Raffles-serviced residences to market at the former Old War Office building in Whitehall.
Seven years after the global conglomerate’s spectacular £350m swoop on the Grade II* listed monolith, wealthy buyers are being offered the chance to live where Churchill and Lloyd George once paced, and Ian Fleming was inspired to create the James Bond series.
Originally designed in 1906 by the British architect William Young, and closed off to the public for over a century, the iconic Edwardian building opposite Horse Guards is currently five years into its transformation as a luxury landmark; EPR Architects has designed the 760,000 square foot mixed-use scheme to house 125 hotel rooms, 85 private residences, nine restaurants and bars, a spa and retail space.
After plenty of speculation about who would end up operating the five-star offering, AccorHotels Group confirmed a partnership with Raffles Hotels & Resorts in 2017, with the ambitious aim of delivering “the most unique hotel and deluxe residences in London”. The project, rebranded as The OWO, topped out last year and is due to complete in 2022.
We now know that purchasers will have the pick of duplex, lateral and penthouse units, ranging in size from studios to five-beds. Most spectacular of all will be two “turret residences”, lording it above the London skyline.
Ceiling heights in some of the apartments will reach 4.4m, with full-length windows to match; the interiors have been put together by design studio 1508 London, and will feature bespoke handcrafted kitchens from Smallbone of Devizes, Waterworks brass ironmongery and Onyx marble.
Each layout is unique, and heritage touches will include oak panelling and mosaic flooring, but key to the appeal will lie in the legendary Raffles service, which promises to “set a new benchmark” in the capital.
Residents will have the run of 30,000 square feet of dedicated amenities, including a 16-seat cinema, games room, gym, three studios (performance, yoga and personal training), a treatment suite, seven lounges, and secure underground parking with numberplate recognition. They will also be able to use the shared hotel pool, and choose from four Raffles-managed bars and restaurants, along with five yet-to-be-announced independents. A separate entrance, formerly used by government spies, will allow owners to come and go from the building discretely.
The launch of the residences is a big moment not just for the team, but also for the Prime Central London market, which has so far missed out on the frenzied activity witnessed in the regions. International travel restrictions remain firmly in place, so the onus will be on sales agents Knight Frank and Strutt & Parker to convey the remarkable level of luxury to overseas buyers remotely.
Knight Frank’s Ian Pidgeon is unfazed: “It is extremely unlikely that a development with such rich history and of this scale will ever be repeated in the capital”, he told PrimeResi. “Each of the 85 residences are unique and meticulously designed to reflect its Grade II* listed heritage. The grandeur of the building is truly breathtaking.
“Residents of The OWO will have full access to a world renowned Raffles Hotel, together with nine restaurants and bars led by world class culinary talent. On completion, I have no doubt that the development will immediately become a new central London destination of choice. We are hugely excited to be the appointed sales agent; the marketing campaign will mobilise the full reach of Knight Frank’s international platform touching the four corners of the globe.”
Strutt & Parker’s Josh Ayres added: “We’re delighted to be instructed on the sale of the branded residences at The OWO: it’s one of the most prestigious and prominent prime central London developments in recent memory. The project brings together an iconic international hotel brand, best in class amenities and British heritage in a new destination that sets a benchmark for luxury living in central London. The OWO will likely command the interest of international and domestic buyers who are looking for a home in a truly integrated branded residence development that sets the standard of luxury, service and security.”
The ex-Lodha duo of Charlie Walsh and Alex Rusling were brought in to run the in-house sales division in December; on the team is also brand and marketing consultant Jenny Naylor, who has been involved with the project since 2017.
Walsh said: “The OWO Residences by Raffles in the heart of London represent an incomparable opportunity for buyers seeking something more than a traditional branded residence. This is a turnkey lifestyle within a new world-class culinary destination not yet experienced in the UK, set within a building of remarkable eminence.”
The full resi pricing schedule is being kept under wraps, but the jump-off point for the two-beds will be £5.8m.
Image credit: Grain London
Interview: Charlie Walsh on launching a landmark super-prime scheme in Central London June 2021