Former MI5 HQ To Become New Hotel And Members’ Club
For 31 years, Leconfield House in Mayfair was the place where Britain’s spies worked, plotted, drank and betrayed each other. Now it is set to become the haunt of a different type of secretive set: rich private members.
Well-known property investor Robert Tchenguiz has lodged plans with Westminster Council to redevelop the existing 69K SF multi-let office building, once the headquarters of MI5, into a hotel and private members’ club.
The new scheme will have up to 78 rooms and also feature a health club and spa, restaurant and bar, retail units and a screening room. The entirety of at least one of the building’s facades is slated to become a living green wall and the new scheme could include a glass dome on the roof above the restaurant to give diners the feeling they are eating outside.
A public consultation on the plans was held in January, and a planning application was submitted in April. CoStar first reported on the planning application.
The consultation documents said the scheme wants to compete with the best five-star hotels in London, like Claridges or the Chiltern Fireside, but also meet the need for facilities for people who want longer stays. That is why a members’ club, where members are allowed to stay for a certain number of nights per year, is planned, rather than a traditional hotel.
Leconfield House was built in 1939, and in 1945 MI5 moved in to occupy the building, located on Curzon Street.
Kim Philby, who infamously worked as a double agent for the Russian secret service, was interrogated there, and Peter Wright, the agent who went on to write the tell-all book Spycatcher, also worked there.
There were machine-gun turrets mounted on the roof during the war, pointing up Curzon Street toward Hyde Park, which was seen as a likely landing point if German paratroopers invaded. They were kept in place by MI5 just in case an angry anti-government mob were ever to try and storm the building.
On the top floor was the Pig and Eye club, a bar for secret service staff. They were given their own watering hole so they could talk shop without being overheard in nearby pubs.
Former MI5 chief Stella Rimmington joined the organisation in 1969, and described Leconfield House as run down and dirty in her autobiography. In 1976 the agency left for new premises in Gower Street.
Leconfield House’s history has been more benign recently, but in March 2011 the building was raided as part of an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into Robert Tchenguiz and his brother Vincent. The pair were released and no charges were ever brought, and they later won substantial damages from the SFO.
Tchenguiz’s property company Rotch bought the freehold of the building for £45M, although the purchase of the leasehold as well took his investment in the scheme to £140M.
He will be hoping the redevelopment increases the value of the building as he is still locked in negotiations with creditors over repayment of debts racked up in the run-up to the last downturn.