'The splendour of the Hoover factory'
by Tim Cole
The splendour of the Hoover factory
Elvis Costello extolled the glories of this art deco landmark and soon you can buy an apartment there says Carol Lewis.
The historical art deco Hoover Building in Perivale, London, is being restored and will include 66 apartments
In 1980 Elvis Costello sang these words about the Hoover Factory:
“Five miles out of London on the Western Avenue/Must have been a wonder when it was brand new/Talkin’ ’bout the splendour of the Hoover factory/I know that you’d agree if you had seen it too.”
He wasn’t the only one to be inspired by the factory: John Betjeman described it as “a sort of art deco Wentworth Woodhouse” after the grade I listed Yorkshire country house.
The art deco building in Perivale, in the west London borough of Ealing, is to become a wonder once more. An ambitious restoration project now under way will transform it into 66 apartments. The range of studio to three-bedroom apartments by the developer IDM Properties is due to come to market next spring, with prices ranging from £275,000 to £695,000.
The Old Hoover Building, as it will be known, was commissioned in 1931 and built by the architectural partnership Wallis, Gilbert and Partners. Renowned for its art deco designs, the company has built some of the country’s most distinctive properties, including Victoria Coach Station in London, General Electrical Company’s Witton Works in Birmingham, and the Firestone Tyre Factory in Brentford in the London borough of Hounslow — its demolition in 1980 caused much controversy.
Vacuum cleaners were produced at the Hoover factory for about 50 years, and during the Second World War aircraft parts were also manufactured in the camouflaged building. In 1982 production was moved to a factory in Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, and shortly afterwards the main offices closed. The building was bought by Tesco in 1989 and was reopened as a store and offices a couple of years later.
A deal brokered by the commercial property adviser DeVono Cresa between Tesco and IDM Properties means that the front of the building, which has been empty for 12 years, can be developed into homes, while the supermarket continues to trade at the back. The factory’s former canteen, a striking art deco structure next to the main building, will remain as the Royal Nawaab restaurant.
Jonathon Curtis, a partner at IDM Properties, says that the project has the backing of English Heritage and experts have been consulted on the preservation of the Hoover Building’s original features. The developer will restore the distinctive Crittall windows, wrought-iron banisters, travertine marble floors and art deco lights. The basins from the factory toilets will be relocated to the roof terrace and used as planters, and the gardens will be reinstated, using historic photographs as a reference.
Restoration work may prove tricky because the building is blighted by what Curtis calls “concrete cancer”, which is when steel reinforcements rust, expand and blow off the concrete. “It is treatable — it is just difficult. We had the same problem when we renovated [the grade II listed] Keeling House in east London, but that worked out well, and English Heritage wanted the same here,” he says.
When completed, the Old Hoover Building will strike a balance between art deco, and modern style and technology, says Curtis. Secondary double glazing will be placed behind the Crittall windows and a ventilation system will allow the building to be sealed, so that apartment owners aren’t kept awake by the nearby A40.
The fluorescent lighting that has led to the Hoover building being dubbed “the big green monster” by locals — the lights are now switched off at 10pm each day after residents complained — will be replaced with more subtle white lighting.
However, one thing that local residents are unlikely to complain about are the building’s house prices. Unlike many conversions of architecturally significant buildings, the apartments are moderately priced. In other schemes, IDM has sold up to 100 per cent of its homes off-plan, with 80 per cent of buyers utilising the government’s Help to Buy scheme. “This is where the demand is — this is what London needs,” Curtis says. Or, as advertisements for the Perivale product used to state: “You’ll be happier with a Hoover.”
Soaring rents for small traders are causing big trouble in Little China
By James Hurley
Independent traders in London’s Chinatown have joined forces to fight for fairer rental deals amid fears that soaring bills are putting the area’s survival at risk.
Small businesses have formed the West End Tenants’ Association, which they say will combat what they see as “underhand” tactics used by landlords to drive up rents and campaign on the issue of fairer business rates.
Jon Man, the owner of HK Diner in Chinatown and one of the new group’s founders, warned that the area was at risk because of unsustainable rises in rents for shops and restaurants: “We’re getting to the point where people can’t survive. The annual increase in rent alone is often more than people are making in the first place.”
He accused landlords of using “a lot of underhand tactics used to push the rent up”, including relying on inappropriate “comparable” property values on which to base rent rises and of failing to provide details of how increases were calculated.
The organisation hopes to provide a “level playing field” for smaller businesses by encouraging them to share information on leasing and rent prices and reviews.
It is aiming to develop a “Zoopla-style” open-book database of commercial rental evidence to help traders to negotiate with landlords.
Mr Man said that small business owners often got a raw deal because property agents and surveyors predominantly represented landlords.
DeVono Property, a commercial property agency that represents tenants only, is working with the group. Philip Sandzer, its head of retail and leisure said that rents were “often shrouded in secrecy, with some tenants agreeing to unduly high rents, which set precedents for all the others, thereby placing many independent businesses in jeopardy. The reason this has been born in Chinatown is that it’s unusual in having a bunch of independent operators.
“[Large retailers] know the system to handle their rent reviews; landlords will not get away with it against the likes of Zara, but with independents, because they are often naive, they can.”
The group hopes that other retailers can replicate its approach. “I’m interested in the enclaves where you have bunches of independent businesses where we can bring all of these companies together,” Mr Sandzer said. “We can change things by creating a fairer situation through transparency.”
Mr Man, who has traded in Chinatown for more than three decades, said that his annual rent had increased from £66,000 to £244,000 over 18 years and he fears that it will rise to £300,000 at his next review, in 2017.
“If it goes to that level, we will have to close,” he said.
Varied management style helps build DeVono
By Carol Lewis
“As we grow there is a need to formalise processes and strategy”
Name: Adam Landau
Business founded: 2003
Growth trajectory: “Profit has grown by 45 per cent on last year and we have hired six more staff”
“You have thresholds in staff numbers that enable a business like ours to set up new and varied management structures to help support growth,” Landau says. He is explaining how DeVono, a commercial property company, has gone through three distinct phases of growth and how each has required a different management approach.
When the company was ten people and fewer everyone was heavily involved in everything but the three founders quickly discovered that they didn’t have any control over what people were doing. “We were chasing leads and concentrating on clients but not really managing the business,” he says.
At this point Landau decided to take more of a management role and look specifically at the company’s growth strategy and people management. “We needed more defined roles, people’s roles were overlapping. As we grew from 10 to 20 people we needed to be more scalable and take on more support — non-fee earning — staff which was a challenge. At this point we needed to split into functions, separating sales and surveying,” he says.
The company is now looking to grow to 40 people and create additional functions. “As we grow there is a need to formalise processes, strategy and human resources,” Landau adds.
As the company has developed, Landau’s own leadership style has changed too. “I have gone from relaxed and casual to more demanding, but now I am relaxing again as my confidence grows and we make fewer mistakes in the hiring process.”
Dukes development Great Portland Street tops office wish-list
By Deirdre Hipwell
London may have an abundance of skyscrapers in the City and flash office pads in Mayfair but it turns out the capital’s most popular office district is a less prominent West End street.
A survey has shown that Great Portland Street, close to the BBC’s redeveloped Broadcasting House, is the most in-demand area for businesses looking for new offices in London.
Schemes situated on the street, which marks the boundary between Fitzrovia and Marylebone, parallel to the medical heartland of Harley Street, regularly top companies’ “wish lists”.
Great Portland Street was developed by the Dukes of Portland, who owned most of the eastern half of Marylebone in the 18th and 19th centuries. It has been gradually redeveloped and now includes a mix of Edwardian and Victorian buildings, small shops and arty restaurants and cafés, giving it a more “New York” feel than other parts of the capital.
DeVono Property, a consultancy, said large and small businesses alike were attracted to the “vibrant” street, with nearly 30 per cent of the 1,045 business inquiries it had received this year requesting office space there.
Adam Landau, a co-director at DeVono, said: “Great Portland Street and its immediate surrounding areas are overwhelmingly the most frequently requested area by companies beginning their office search. The reasons are clear; its rental prices are still reasonable compared with Soho, Marylebone and Mayfair. Market Place [just off Great Portland Street] has the appeal of open spaces, restaurants and bars as well as being tucked away from the tourist masses of Oxford Street, while still providing employees with a Central London feel and location.
“It was historically home to the rag trade but the tenant base is now hugely diverse with occupiers including The Engine Group, Stub Hub and to the north Gazprom, Aegus, JP Morgan and Santander. We have seen inquiries increase by 7 per cent in the first half of this year compared with the same time last year when St John Street in EC1 was the most requested road.”
Rents in Marylebone can range from £30 a sq ft to £85 a sq ft for the best space while in Mayfair rents for top-quality offices start at £70 to £110 a sq ft.
Mr Landau said that the second most requested location in London during the first half of the year was Southwark Street on the South Bank. “Tenant demand is increasing at a staggering rate, with The Shard bringing even more buzz to the area,” he said.
The Times is the newspaper of choice for the discerning businessman
I am pleased to see, once again, that The Times is the newspaper of choice for the discerning businessman. When DeVono Property, a property consultant, surveyed 1,000 London office workers to find out what they thought of their office space, commute and nearby leisure amenities, they also asked them to list their favourite daily newspaper. The Times scored 26.7 per cent of the vote, ahead of the Financial Times with 14.2 per cent and the others, including the Daily Mail and The Guardian, trailing between 11 to 13 per cent. Quite right, too.
Chip away at your office rent
By Mark Frary
One of the biggest costs that any company faces, whether it is a small start-up or an
established player, is the rent and rates payable on its offices.
When you consider that many companies stay for perhaps decades in their offices, making sure that you are paying the lowest rent for your building is clearly important. Yet many businesses miss out on a related, but less obvious, cost saving — taking less space in the first place.
The growth of remote and mobile working means that companies can make considerable savings on rent by letting employees work some of the time from home or while on the road.
Luke Philpott, of the commercial property agents DeVono, says that companies that look at a combination of remote working and hot-desking “could take 10 to 15 per cent less space when they next move”.
Advances in technology mean that remote employees can be as well connected as those in the office.
Adam Landau, of DeVono, says: “Historically, technology advances have happened every three to five years; now they are happening every two years.”
DeVono says there is an increasing trend for businesses aiming to have more employees working remotely and needing less space as a result. The company’s founder, Robert Leigh, says that the technology, media and telecoms (TMT) sector is at the forefront of the remote-working trend. “TMT companies are not set
in their ways. A law firm has been doing the same thing for 100 years and you are asking it to change its format,” he says.
Philpott believes that remote working does not suit every company. “If you are a new business and trying to grow, I don’t think you can work with people not being closely in touch. In an established company where you have, say, a load of programmers writing code, then they can work from home.”
Landau adds: “There is a lot of trust involved in working remotely. Many employees would love to work from home but if you ask them off the record how successful their day actually was with all the distractions, they would potentially say they would have got more done in the office.”
Another issue for people working on the road is how your company is perceived by its clients.
“We have had our own experience of mobile working,” Leigh says. “We all have the various tools — the iPads and BlackBerrys — but service to our clients is the most important thing. We are always available, but talking to a client when you are waiting to get on a Tube train is not the best thing.”
Companies that do employ hot-desking for their remote-working employees need to think carefully about setting up the office, Landau says. “Those employees still need a place to work in the office. It might be slightly smaller or be configured slightly differently, but they still need it. Remember, they can’t leave anything out on their desk. The mentality is very different.”
He cites the case of Rio Tinto, which moved from a traditional office in Mayfair to one in Paddington and adopted a hot-desking concept by which employees were allocated a particular floor but not a desk.
“Employees were given a moveable cabinet, which was locked away at night,” he says. Landau adds: “We encourage companies to think they need less space and can make savings. In one year it may only be £5,000 or £10,000 — but if you are there for five years, that is a lot of money.”