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Google Buys Former Leper Colony For £763M

The Central Saint Giles office scheme

It was once one of London’s most down run-down areas, home for centuries to leper colonies and vagrants. But Google has just spent £763M ($1B) on the Central Saint Giles office building in the Saint Giles neighbourhood of London, in the biggest real estate transaction the West End has ever seen. 

Google bought the 433K SF building just south of Tottenham Court Road from a 50:50 joint venture between Legal & General and Mitsubishi Estate. Of the total area, 408K SF is offices and the rest is made up of restaurants and retail. The colourful building was designed by Renzo Piano

Google currently occupies about 156K SF of the building. In 2020, it came close to exiting its lease there, before extending it for 10 years and now buying the building. 

It could take more space in the building as the leases of other tenants terminate, and it will invest in refurbishing its own space to make it fit for a new future of work, Google said in a statement. 

Collaboration spaces for “in-person teamwork” and hybrid meeting rooms will be added, as will covered outdoor spaces to enable staff to work in the fresh air. Google said it plans to de-densify the space generally. 

As well as the space at Central Saint Giles, Google is also building a 1M SF UK headquarters at the Kings Cross Central development to the north and east. 

“Our purchase of the Central Saint Giles development reflects our continued commitment to the country’s growth and success,” Google and Alphabet Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat said. “Our focus remains on creating flexible workspaces that foster innovation, creativity and inclusivity. We look forward to deepening our connection to the UK as we build for the future of work.”

In his book London: The Biography, Peter Ackroyd argued the Saint Giles area of London is somehow cursed.

Through its history, no matter how many times local authorities or private interests try to gentrify the area near Tottenham Court Road, it always remained seedy and down at heel. Its history as a leper hospital beginning in the 12th century is one possible reason, Ackroyd mused, with the souls of those that suffered there still walking abroad.

Google’s $1B says the curse is broken.