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Delayed, But The Curse Of The Trocadero Might Finally Be Lifted As Redevelopment Gets Green Light

The revised plans for the Trocadero.

It is one of London property’s greatest enigmas.

The Trocadero sits in one of the best retail and leisure locations in the city, at the point where tourist meccas Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus meet.

But it has a history of failure like few other famous buildings. In the past 30 years it has been in receivership, housed an indoor theme park that was a high-profile failure and more recently lain mostly unoccupied.

But that could finally be about to change. On 6 March owner Criterion Capital received approval for a revised planning application to redevelop the 600K SF building into a 740-bed pod hotel.

Things may yet go awry. Criterion had plans for a smaller hotel which received consent in 2014 and was due to be completed in 2017 but which were ultimately shelved for this revised scheme. But this once-grand building may finally be coming back to life.

The Trocadero occupies a whole city block and is one building split into separate elements that contain shops, restaurants and a cinema, with much of the upper floors completely unused. The once-grand building is now dowdy with multiple empty retail units.

The Trocadero in London has multiple empty units.

Criterion’s plans would combine this into a single hotel. Under its previous plan the hotel was set to be operated by Accor under its Ibis brand, but a report that was part of the revised planning application said that a brand for the hotel was yet to be decided. Criterion and Accor did not respond to requests for comment.

The report said the hotel will feature pod rooms with a keyless entry system, rain showers and instant messaging with staff. It will employ 200 staff.

“The guest rooms are designed as ‘pod’ type rooms where the environment is internalised and the traditional window is omitted. This enables a highly efficient and effective layout of the guest bedrooms,” the report said. “The aim is to offer a new hub of affordable accommodation within the very heart of London.”

As well as the hotel the building will include a 17.5K SF rooftop bar and a 4.5K SF pool and terrace.

The Trocadero was built in 1896 and featured a restaurant with grand opera stylings and Arthurian murals on the walls, in keeping with the baroque exterior.

The restaurant closed in 1965 and the building lay vacant for almost 20 years before reopening in 1984 as a tourist-led leisure attraction featuring shops, restaurants and a cinema.

The escalator to Segaworld in the Trocadero.

But the scheme did not prosper, changing hands a few times before falling into receivership in 1993 while owned by Irish firm Power Corp.

In 1994 Nick Leslau’s Burford bought the building for £94M and undertook a major refurbishment which included installing a Segaworld arcade complex and fair rides. The scheme was a failure and closed down in the early 2000s.

“I tried to bring the world’s first indoor virtual reality theme park at the Trocadero centre in Piccadilly Circus but it bombed and that hurt because it was such a public failure,” Leslau told City A.M. “It did make money but it wasn’t about the money, it was about the vision.”

In 2005 Golfrate, one of the vehicles of Criterion owner Asif Aziz, bought the building for £220M, and various plans for the scheme have come and gone. Plans for an Ibis hotel date back to 2007.

The building was refinanced by Aviva in 2015 as part of a wider £937M refinancing undertaken by Criterion.

No timeline for the redevelopment was specified in the revised application. The plans approved in 2014 were set to take three years, which would put completion at 2021 at the earliest.

There is still a ways to go, but the Trocadero might finally live up to its potential again.