James Bond and Batman help rescue London developers

Tue Feb 28, 2012 5:12am EST
 
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By Tom Bill

LONDON (Reuters) - Hollywood is helping London developers weather the financial crisis by turning empty offices into film sets, providing cash and publicity for landlords struggling to fill buildings with tenants because of the uncertain economic outlook.

In addition to films and television shows, a growing number of developers are also opening their doors to events like London Fashion Week or temporary retail sites for online companies such as Amazon, eBay and Google.

Others are planning to cash in on short-term demand from film crews seeking rooftops with panoramic views during the Olympic Games and celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation.

"There has been a sea change in the way landlords deal with empty space since the financial crisis," said Mark Hughes-Webb, managing director of SPACE-2 Consulting, which finds buildings for shoots and events. "They are more focused on cashflow as shareholders want to know they are working their assets."

Developers have struggled to fill a series of striking new buildings meant to attract a wave of tenants: five skyscrapers in central London at varying stages of build have signed one office deal between them.

The office vacancy rate in London's main financial district was 7 percent in January, double where it stood at the end of 2007, its last low point, data from property consultancy CBRE show. SPACE-2's turnover has almost doubled over the same period.

SPOOKS AND SPOOFS

Two neighboring office blocks near the Bank of England in the main financial district have the equivalent of eleven soccer pitches of empty space between them.   Continued...