The OWO: Churchill’s Old War Office to house Europe’s first Raffles-serviced residences


EXCLUSIVE: The Hinduja Group and OHLD unveil rebrand for flagship project as it reaches full height, and extend partnership with Raffles Hotels & Resorts

The Hinduja Group and Obrascon Huarte Lain Desarollos have released some more details about their plans for the iconic Old War Office on Whitehall.

PrimeResi can exclusively reveal that the hotly-anticipated project will be called “The OWO”, and play host to the first Raffles-serviced residences in Europe.

The Hindujas and OHLD bought the Grade II* listed landmark for £350m in December 2014, following a fierce bidding war, and went on to bag planning for a EPR-designed scheme with 125 hotel rooms, a set of private residences, nine restaurants and bars, a spa and boutique 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”.

First Look: A CGI of The OWO

A construction team consisting of Ardmore Group, Toureen Group and Elliott Wood has been making solid progress in the interim, and the developers held a topping out ceremony to mark the 760,000 square foot building hitting its full height last week.

Along with settling on the new name (intended to “celebrate and respect the history and spirit of the Old War Office”), an extension to the partnership with Raffles has been signed, confirming that all 85 apartments will also be operated by the luxury brand on completion in 2022.

Owners of the OWO Residences by Raffles will be promised “gracious and intuitive staff, personalised attention and a timeless ambience”, along with full access to all the top-end amenities.

Westminster-based studio 1508 London has been commissioned to create the interiors; the hotel element is being designed by New York-based Thierry Despont.

The 1906 monolith, which had around 1,100 rooms across seven floors, linked by nearly two miles of corridors, was once the stomping ground of political giants including Churchill, David Lloyd George, Lord Kitchener, Herbert Asquith and T.E. Lawrence.

It was also the haunt of the British Secret Service (who had their own, more discreet entrance). The site was declared surplus to requirements by the MOD in 2013 as part of a cost-cutting drive and went up for sale shortly afterwards, attracting around 25 bids.

The first Raffles Hotel was opened in 1887, and named after the British statesman and founder of Singapore, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. Celebrated by Rudyard Kipling in his 1889 novel From Sea To Sea, the hotel was also the birthplace of the famous Singapore Sling cocktail in 1915.

Topping Out Ceremony at The OWO, Whitehall, with left to right: Denis Nolan, Founder & Chairman, Toureen Group; Gary Elliott, Founder & Chief Operating Officer, Elliott Wood; Madani Sow, Chief Executive Officer, Westminster Development Services; Marc Dardenne, Chief Operating Officer, Luxury Brands, Accor Europe

Gopichand P Hinduja, the Hinduja Group’s Co-Chairman: “This is an exciting and momentous day for the Old War Office as we reach the highest point of the building and announce the official name of the project as ‘The OWO’.   After an exhaustive process, Raffles were selected above other leading global hotel brands as our partner to deliver a world-class hotel experience of peace and warmth.  We are delighted to announce Raffles as operators of the branded residences; the first of their kind in Europe. The level of servicing Raffles will offer to future residence owners is unparalleled and will set a new benchmark in London.”

OHL’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Jose Antonio Fernandez Gallar: “The Old War Office has been an ambitious and technically complex architectural and engineering project, and we are delighted to achieve this significant milestone as we progress towards the project’s opening early 2022.”

Sébastien Bazin, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Accor:  “Raffles is a beloved brand with British roots, named after the British statesman and founder of Singapore, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, so it is very fitting that Raffles is coming home to London and that this will be our first residential project in Europe.  It is an enormous privilege to be partnering with the Hinduja family and OHLD. We are thrilled to take part in this adventure and to add ‘The OWO’ to our Raffles collection, as this sublime location will undoubtedly make the list of the five most beautiful hotels in the world, alongside Raffles Singapore.”