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Britain’s First-Ever Commercial Property Becomes Another Retail Play Snapped Up By Opportunity Fund

The Royal Exchange in the City of London

The Royal Exchange in the City of London is where it all began.

First opened in 1571 by Queen Elizabeth I, it was established as a place where British merchants could exchange goods in one location, an import from the continent where the concept was popularized.

Britain’s first-ever specialist commercial property, its august history and striking architecture have not guaranteed success in the 21st century, however. The building has been snapped up by an opportunistic investor at a sharp discount to the price paid for it in 2014.

Ardent Real Estate said Friday it had completed the purchase of the retail element of the Royal Exchange from Oxford Properties for £50M. The Canadian pension fund bought the building for £86M in 2014 from Anglo Irish Bank

Ardent is looking for opportunistic deals for its Ardent Strategic Fund I, which it launched with £165M of equity in March 2021.

In that sense, the Royal Exchange is now in the same portfolio as a regional shopping centre in need of repositioning. Ardent bought the Touchwood shopping centre in the Midlands for £90M last summer. 

The Royal Exchange totals 51K SF. The current building was built in 1844 after the previous building burnt down in a fire.

The asset being bought by Ardent comprises street-facing retail units around the outside of the building and an internal atrium, with a Fortnum & Mason café and bar and further retail units.

The leasing strategy has focused on luxury retail brands, with tenants including Tiffany & Co., Hermès and Bremont.

Ardent said it is “focused on driving performance through an improved offer that better meets the changing needs of those that visit the City for both work and pleasure”.