Chinese firms that own swathes of the City are leading a drive to transform the area into a 24/7 leisure destination while maintaining its status as a leading global financial centre.
The owners of the skyscrapers known commonly as the Cheesegrater and the Walkie Talkie are working with other landlords in an initiative to create a “business improvement district” (BID) in the Square Mile.
BIDs are defined regions in which businesses are required to pay extra tax to fund projects in the area.
Cheesegrater-owner CC Land and Walkie Talkie-owner Lee Kum Kee, a Hong Kong foods company, are among the group that will put in up to £500,000 to test the project over a two-year period, the Times first reported.
Hong Kong-based Lee Kum Kee, a company famous for inventing oyster sauce, bought the Walkie Talkie on Fenchurch Street for around £1.3bn in 2017 in the largest ever UK office purchase. CC Group paid £1.2bn for the Cheesegrater on Leadenhall the same year.
Adam Goldin, head of UK for CC Land, said: “We are proud to be an investor in the engine room of the UK economy but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to evolve and transform this fantastic place.”
“Occupier engagement and collaboration is key to our mission and through this new partnership we can develop exemplar public realm projects to enrich and enhance the attractiveness of the area.”
The plan is to turn the “eastern city cluster” – the part of the City dominated by skyscrapers – into a leisure destination as well as an insurance and finance hub.
The pilot phase will run for up to two years, during which time its leaders hope to show the benefits of their project. Businesses in the area will then be balloted, with a majority vote required to launch a BID that would make all local firms pay extra money towards the plans.
Part of the plan is to work with Transport for London and the City of London Corporation, the Square Mile’s governing body, to tackle traffic and pollution in the area.
Patrick Wong, founder of Tenacity, another Hong Kong-based developer, said: “As site or building owners we have a collective duty to ensure that this part of the City is the best that it can be.”
“I strongly believe that shared value is created when we all collaborate. This sits at the heart of this partnership approach – founding partners, working with the City of London, occupiers and others to harness the growth opportunities in the City.”