The Former US Embassy In London Is Being Converted Into To A Luxury Hotel

Filed Under: Hotels

Between 1938 and December 2017, the US Embassy in the United Kingdom was located at Grosvenor Square, London.

During the Second World War, President Eisenhower established a military headquarters at the square, during which time it was nicknamed “Eisenhower Platz.”

While the Embassy has moved around buildings over the years within the Grosvenor Square complex, for the last fifty years it has been the London Chancery Building, as shown below.

Former US Embassy, Grosvenor Square London (Source: The Guardian)

Late last year the Embassy moved to new, larger, custom built premises at 33 Elms Lane (also in London) which is the largest US Embassy in Western Europe.

New US Embassy, London (Source: US Embassy and Consulates)

So what is happening to the Grosvenor Square building?

Well, the London Chancery Building was purchased by the Qatari Royal Family, via their property development company, Qatari Diar. The Qatar Government owns and develops a surprisingly large amount of commercial property in the United Kingdom.

They are in the process of converting the property into a luxury, 137-room hotel with five restaurants, six retail units, a spa, and a ballroom accommodating up to 1,000 guests. The property will operate as a Rosewood Hotel once complete.

It will open in 2023 (does it really take five years to refurbish an existing building?!). The building is predicted to be valued at approximately £1 billion ($1.31 billion) once the refurbishment has been completed.

Radha Arora, President of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, said of the project:

Today marks a new milestone in our London journey as we work with Qatari Diar to deliver our second hotel in this vibrant city and further expand our regional presence in Europe. By re-imagining the site of the former US Embassy, a Grade II listed building, we hope to provide a coveted experience within the prestigious neighbourhood of Mayfair that truly embodies Rosewood’s Sense of Place philosophy.

We are excited to open up this historic part of Grosvenor Square once again, for guests and the public to enjoy, creating a welcoming environment that reflects both the historic nature of the building yet also bringing a fresh sensibility to this significant area.

Bottom line

This will no doubt be a spectacular luxury property when the refurbishment is completed, in a beautiful part of London right near Hyde Park. Hopefully it will be worth the wait because five years seems like an extremely long time to refurbish a building like this.

Given the building played such an important diplomatic and political role for the best part of a century, I hope they retain some references to this in the redevelopment.

Would you want to stay in a former US Embassy building?

Comments
  1. Canada also recently sold it’s former High Commission building on the opposite side of Grosvenor Square to consolidate it’s operations in its expanded Trafalgar Square building. Did I hear correctly that it too is being converted, to residences? Interestingly, the former Canadian High Commission building was previously the U.S. embassy before moving to the Modernist building that is to become a Rosewood hotel.

  2. I think you mean a century rather than a decade in the last paragraph.

    Interesting to see how this develops, what a great location and building for a hotel. I can see why it would take a significant time to redevelop, it’s a listed building so planning and listed building consent will be a lengthy process, and it adds time to the actual refurbishment as well.

    I imagine one of the big elements will be providing sufficient car parking. I don’t know what is currently provided for the former staff but they may need to dig deeper to increase any underground parking to provide sufficient and that would be a long job I suspect.

  3. Five years is not crazy for a full gut reno of a 50 year old building.

    Design can take a couple of years. And there will almost assuredly be a phase of asbestos abatement, which will require large sections of the building to be sealed off from work for long periods, the one has to remove old, obsolete, equipment without demolishing the entire mofo. Add in some historic preservation requirements and you get to five years quite easily.

  4. @ David – perhaps the delay is because they didn’t have access to the property to plan before taking possession. I can’t imagine the US Government would be too keen on sending blueprints of their US Embassy to the Middle East!

  5. Any thoughts on the Rosewood brand for this property? I’ve never tried one but they seem to be expanding rapidly with their recent ownership change. They already have a pretty highly regarded property in London at Holborn…

  6. @ James, that was sort of my point. If they’d gotten a head start on the design they stand a chance of finishing within 5 years. If not then good luck to them! It took me 10 months to get permission to put a green roof on my kitchen, but then I have intransigent neighbours and I’m sure the residents of Grosvenor Square are much nicer neighbours…

  7. At £1 billion , it’s going to take an astronomical room rate for those 137 rooms to offer any return. Perhaps it could become a palace in exile in the event the Qatari royals are forced to flee.
    In any event, it’s quite convenient: LHR to Green Park Tube and then a 10 minute walk up the hill towards Bond Street. Saves £10 rather than Heathrow Express and tube, and just as quick.

  8. @ Paolo – with the massive room rates I’d predict for this hotel, I don’t think it will be appeal to those looking to save £10 on a Heathrow Express ticket ; P

  9. London is a repository of filthy money from around the world. Money given from corruption, wars, drugs etc.

    Watch the English gentlemen preach about law and order and proper manners while they take in money gotten from screwing the world. Sort of like swiss safekeeping the gold and art while the nazi’s gassed the Jews.
    In this case the qataris are just money laundering. They don’t care if the hotel breaks even any time soon.

  10. @Justin – I have stayed at Rosewood properties in Mexico (Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen and Las Ventanas in Baja), in the BVI (Little Dix Bay) and Hotel Georgia in Vancouver and had great experiences at all. Beautiful properties and high level of service which has always been relaxed and friendly vs stuffy. Highly recommend.

    @paolo – The article references the predicted value after renovation which isn’t the same thing as cost. Having said that, Rosewood stays aren’t cheap so James is probably right about the saving money on using the tube. 🙂

    Ciao

  11. @Justin

    ps: I haven’t stayed there but The Carlyle in New York is a Rosewood. If you are ever nearby, stop by and have drink at Bemelmans Bar. Quiet little corner of old New York with tons of history and atmosphere.

  12. I never thought I;d write this, but … I agree with Debit (sort of). Qatar is a huge, huge investor in London: it’s a way of turning its cash into assets whose value should rise over time, in what is supposed to be a stable, business-friendly environment with (relatively) low taxation – but the latter can largely be magicked away through offshore companies. The day-to-day profit and loss of the business doesn’t much matter.

    It’s not just the Qataris, of course: Saudis are there in force, as are the Chinese (huge amounts of domestic property is bought as a safe, low-tax investment (annual property taxes in England are crazily low, compared to any other western state). And pretty much any other nationality trying to get cash out of their own country into a safe (sic) haven.

    People invest for different reasons: Richard Branson always claimed he invested for long-term capital growth, not quick annual profits – hence him justifying taking his empire back into private ownership after it was mauled on the stock exchange.

  13. @DougG: I came close to booking the Carlyle once as I was looking for a mid-sized, classic luxury, upper-east side hotel. But I saw it got middling reviews on tripadvisor, so I opted for The Surrey (a Relais et Chateaux property) instead. I ended up being disappointed, The Surrey was meh, at best.

  14. In converting from offices to a hotel, 5 years may not be long enough. From Planning to permits to construction, this is a huge undertaking. Relocating walls, plumbing and electrical to name just a few.
    But what a great building and location!

  15. This I’d a perfect location for a hotel – very central yet very quiet. Much nicer than nearby Park Lane with its masses of traffic.

    Funny to think that Nine Elms where the new embassy is was a very poor area with railway yards, industrial and, as we call them, bad neighbor businesses when this building was built – not that I was around then

  16. The Rosewood in Holborn has very nice rooms. Excellent location for Covent Garden etc. The bar is not really to my liking though. More tables than bar – very modern. I prefer somewhere a bit darker after a day’s toil.

  17. Will the Russians be given the courtesy/time to remove their bugs from the building before it is renovated? (j/k)

  18. I’ve stayed many times at the other Rosewood Hotel in London, and I do have to say the service and experience are outstanding. I’d stay at this new property to experience Rosewood, not the former US Embassy.

  19. Grosnover Square’s history with the US Embassy goes back much further than this particular building. John Adams lived at 9 Grosnover Square when he was the first American ambassador to England from 1785-1788. The building is there & last time I checked, was the office of Tony Blair.

  20. DEBIT and LIBYA – horrible comments………….we really dont need your comments thanks .

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