Interview: Andrew Dunn of Finchatton on forging a partnership with Four Seasons

By Prime Resi

Finchatton's co-founder gives us the inside track on Four Seasons’ much-anticipated entry into standalone resi...

As the world’s first standalone Four Seasons Private Residences are unveiled at Twenty Grosvenor Square, we caught up with Finchatton co-founder Andrew Dunn to find out how the project came about, who’s been buying so far, and why the owner experience will be ‘second to none’…

Andrew Dunn

Twenty Grosvenor Square will be the first standalone Four Seasons Private Residences anywhere in the world – how did the partnership come about and who approached who?

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts are undoubtedly the world leader in residential and hotel servicing. They offer a superior level of service which is truly hospitable and highly personalised. It made sense for us to approach them to partner with us on Twenty Grosvenor Square as it is exactly these qualities we envisaged for residents of the building – effortless, hotel-style living in the comfort of your own home. They were also looking at the standalone residential sector, so in that respect, it was an ideal partnership and perfect timing for both parties.

  • The Four Seasons brand is one of the strongest in the global luxury sector (and a formidable sales hook); what can buyers expect from the tie-up and are you looking at further collaborations with the group?

Four Seasons has six decades of experience, over which time the company has transformed the hospitality industry by combining friendliness and efficiency with the very finest traditions of international hotel keeping and residential servicing.

For buyers of these apartments, they’ll have access to an unrivalled level of quality and service, including a round-the-clock concierge carried out by expertly trained staff, a-la-carte services tailored to their needs –  such as housekeeping, in-residence dining, laundry, babysitting and pet care – amongst other things.

Over the past two years, we’ve established a strong relationship with the Four Seasons team in Toronto. Twenty Grosvenor Square is important as it marks Four Seasons’ much-anticipated entry into standalone residential and with the Twenty Grosvenor Square collaboration being such a success, we would hope to work with the brand on future projects in other locations.

FURTHER READING: Inside Twenty Grosvenor Square; the first standalone Four Seasons Private Residences

  • The buzz around the scheme has been building for a while now; where has most of the buyer interest originated from to date?

We’ve had 19 different nationalities, including a number of domestic buyers, expressing an interest in and/or purchasing an apartment at Twenty Grosvenor Square. The majority of buyers are aged 40-55, but we’ve also had some younger and older. It has been surprisingly diverse! The majority of buyers have confirmed that Twenty Grosvenor Square will be their main residence. As we’ve not shared much publicly in the way of imagery or details about the scheme, most buyers have come to us through word of mouth, existing clients, some through Four Seasons, and some through our appointed agents.

  • Once the home of the US Naval Forces in Europe and frequented by the likes of General Dwight Eisenhower during the Second World War, the building has quite the provenance; how important is this to the scheme?

The building has a fascinating and important history, and we hope to have delivered a scheme that is very sympathetic to this heritage. The history of the building, as the former Headquarters for the US Navy Forces in Europe, and prior history as one of the first Mayfair addresses used for diplomacy, makes it stand out from other buildings in the Square. The size and grandiosity of Twenty Grosvenor Square also gives it real prominence.

  • At 250,000 square feet, Twenty Grosvenor Square is one of Finchatton’s biggest and most high-profile projects to date; what has been the toughest challenge in delivering something of this stature?

[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]We were also very fortunate in securing consent to create a porte cochère for vehicle drop-offs on the North Audley Street aspect[/perfectpullquote]

From a construction point of view, we’ve faced some interesting challenges, including the programme of works around retaining much of the façade of this 100-year-old building whilst digging the basement levels below, and constructing new façade sections on North Audley Street that matched exactly the retained sections so they were in keeping with the historic Grosvenor Estate. We were also very fortunate in securing consent to create a porte cochère for vehicle drop-offs on the North Audley Street aspect, and to remove an existing centred protrusion to the building which has helped the more balanced building exterior now under construction.

  • How would you describe the interior design scheme?

Finchatton’s delivered the interior design throughout the project  from the grand entrance lobby and extensive amenity areas through to every square foot of each individual apartment. Aware of the building’s heritage, we wanted to create spaces that’ll be refined yet comfortable, and possess an exemplary style and elegance which is typical of Finchatton schemes. We’ve been in this business since 2001, so we know what works and what doesn’t work so well, and we also know what buyers are looking for.

  • With the focus on five-star hotel living, how will you ensure the apartments still feel like homes?

The 37 apartments are all private residences; there is no hotel element in the building. Residents can enjoy the range of amenities and servicing that you would normally expect in the world’s leading hotels, but within their own building.

  • Amenities have come on hugely in the last ten years; how do you ensure you are delivering what UHNW buyers want now – and in the years to come? Are there any future trends you are keeping a close eye on?

We are in a fortunate position in that we have over a decade’s experience in designing and building homes for some of the world’s most discerning clientele, and so we have a good understanding of how people want to live and what they expect from a scheme of this nature. Talking to our clients, both past and present, helps us to understand what buyers are looking for. Increasingly, having the right amenities within a building is paramount.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Busy people simply don’t have time to go outside the home to access these amenities[/perfectpullquote]

This will change from scheme to scheme, but there are some aspects which will always be important –  health and wellness for example. At Twenty Grosvenor Square, we’ve included a 25-metre swimming pool, a vitality pool, extensive gym space, spa treatment rooms and other facilities. Busy people simply don’t have time to go outside the home to access these amenities so these and others like a garden library for entertaining guests and meeting spaces are all within the scheme.

On future trends, we’ve had a very positive response from clients to the servicing side of Twenty Grosvenor Square, where the building provides the staff rather than individual owners having to employ staff directly. With Twenty Grosvenor Square, they have all the benefits of a full staff on hand without having any of the payroll hassle.

  • Could you talk us through how life in a Four Seasons Residence might differ from the experience in other high-end developments?

Four Seasons has an incredible service ethos – their staff are talented, well-trained and dedicated to providing a personal service. As there are only 37 apartments at Twenty Grosvenor Square, the experience given by staff will be second to none. This scheme is unique in that respect.

  • Finchatton currently has over £1.3 billion worth of development in the pipeline; is the focus now on larger-scale schemes like Twenty Grosvenor Square or will smaller projects still play a part?

We look at each potential scheme on its own merits, not based on its size, but we are enjoying being part of the development of Twenty Grosvenor Square and would certainly be open to other larger-scale opportunities.

  • Grosvenor recently announced plans to transform Grosvenor Square into “London’s leading public space” and has been asking the public for ideas; in your opinion, which specific improvements would achieve that aim?

The redevelopment of the US Embassy building and opening up the area in front of the Embassy building will certainly improve the streetscape, and I think what Grosvenor has done in transforming Mount Street into a global retail destination with a village feel has been fantastic. If they can create something similar with North Audley Street, and invest in the landscaping of Grosvenor Square itself, those would be great improvements.

  • How has the luxury property market been faring since the Brexit vote – and how do you see things panning out over the next couple of years?

We have seen robust and continued interest in Twenty Grosvenor Square, reflected in the level of existing sales and ongoing enquiries. Beyond that, we wouldn’t want to speculate, but historically, the luxury property market has proved robust and has bounced back after adversity, but as is always the case with the residential sector, it depends on confidence in the market.

  • Which is your favourite Four Seasons destination in the world?

Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris – the attention to detail at this property is phenomenal and it does not disappoint. Like all Four Seasons, there are no unwelcome surprises – everything is just as it should be.

See inside Twenty Grosvenor Square here