Hines has secured the purchase of Grain House on Drury Lane in the heart of Covent Garden from corporate pension fund clients of Savills Investment Management.
The vacant property, which has been acquired on behalf of the Hines European Value Fund 2 (HEVF 2), has existing planning consent for a landmark 91,000 sq ft mixed-use development.
The refurbishment programme will begin later this year and will incorporate the addition of a two-storey roof extension across the whole site, with flexible office floorplates ranging from 6,222 sq ft to 15,791 sq ft arranged around an atrium with character finishes including exposed concrete, steel and brickwork.
The building will also provide extensive external terracing and has been designed to achieve BREEAM Excellent, WELL Building accreditation as well as enhanced digital connectivity standards with WiredScore.
This is the third landmark acquisition Hines has secured in Central London recently, following the purchase of two prime, flagship and retail-led mixed-use properties on Oxford Street.
The purchase represents the fourth for HEVF 2, bringing the amount of equity allocated by the fund to EUR 350 million. Hines recently announced the first closing of the fund, securing EUR 637m of equity commitments in just three months after its launch, exceeding 50% of the final EUR 1.25bn fundraising target. When factoring in leverage, HEVF 2 is expected to have total purchasing power approaching EUR 3 billion, making it Hines’s largest closed-end fund in Europe to date.
Savills IM sold the asset on behalf of a longstanding separate account for a corporate pension client. The account, which the firm has operated for over 30 years, has outperformed over every time horizon, with three-year rolling outperformance in 19 of the last 20 years. Run by Lucy Winterburn, the account is split into Core and Supercore funds. Both invest solely in the UK and have a current strong bias towards the industrial sector, London and the southeast. The account currently manages assets of over GBP 670m.
Jake Walsh, Managing Director, Hines UK, said: “New office schemes of this scale and quality in central London are very rare and with Covent Garden rapidly evolving into a dynamic commercial hub alongside its long-held reputation as a prime retail and leisure hotspot, this represents a fantastic investment.”
Lucy Winterburn, Director of Investment at Savills Investment Management, commented: “We are sad to say goodbye to an asset that has served the fund so well both in terms of income and capital return over a number of years but is now ripe for redevelopment. The planning consent that has been secured offers the purchaser an opportunity to comprehensively regenerate the island site by combining four distinct buildings into one.
The scheme should deliver classic Covent Garden office and retail space with plenty of character and style. Our client’s decision to sell is motivated by their conservative attitude to development risk on this scale. We will watch the development with interest and wish the Hines’ team well in their development and leasing phase.”
Paul White, HEVF 2 fund manager, said: “Following closely on the heels of the fund’s acquisition of our flagship retail and office scheme on New Bond Street, we’re able to capitalise on the pricing discount that has opened up between prime London and Continental Europe investment. The occupier market fundamentals remain strong and the certainty provided by Brexit and political stability makes London an attractive location for our investors, and we’re pleased to have secured this off-market investment.”