A property investor is planning to redevelop a site in Berners Street and is seeking the views of local people at a public exhibition and consultation this month.
Kajima Europe, a subsidiary of the Kajima Corporation, bought Orwell House, 16-18 Berners Street in 2020 and has now decided it is bored with its purchase and wants to knock it about.
“The emerging plans would seek to refurbish and extend Orwell House in order to deliver sustainable and flexible office accommodation which will appeal to a diverse occupier base,” states the promotional material inviting comments on the project.
The office block is currently occupied by many small design and creative companies and rises four and five stories above the street level.
The asymmetric building with an unusual ground floor frontage was probably rebuilt on the site of two mid-Georgian buildings which were bomb-damaged in World War 2.
Constructed in stock yellow bricks it features on the upper floors identical nine-pane windows set in steel frames.
On the ground floor to the right is a large “picture” window behind which is currently a display by a glassware company.
The left side of the building is dominated by a double-height frontage of an art gallery with a large entrance featuring a mortar render surround.
The gutter down buckets are very large and feature a capital “H” on them — possibly a reference to the name of a post-war workshop or showroom on the site.
The building extends to Berners Mews to the rear.
The outline plans put forward by Kajima and its team would make the building unrecognisable and would appear to be an environmentally damaging demolition and wholesale redevelopment of the site rather than the greener refurbishment they claim it to be.
However, Kajima say they will be “Maximising the retention of the existing structure to minimise the release of embodied carbon”.
Local people will be concerned that any design should not detract from the listed Sanderson building opposite or the adjoining building to the north which is an unlisted building of merit in the Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Plan.
After receiving public comments Kajima say they will further develop its plans ahead of submitting a planning application to Westminster City Council.
Public exhibition of plans: Tuesday 18 October 2022 between 4pm and 6.30pm at Orwell House, 16-18 Berners Street. Online public consultation is open until Friday 21 October 2022 at Orwellhouseconsultation.co.uk
Update, 18 June 2023: a planning application that was submitted in December 2022 was approved at a planning committee on 2 May 2023.