Chinese plan to rebuild London’s Crystal Palace

3 October 2013

London’s famous Crystal Palace, the glass structure that stunned Victorians in 1851 but burned to the ground in 1936, is to rise again in the latest multi-million-pound Chinese investment in the UK capital.

Mayor Boris Johnson enthusiastically welcomed the £500m plan, unveiled today by China’s ZhongRong Group, to rebuild the Crystal Palace and restore the surrounding neglected public park.

Plans being developed by Arup include a hotel and conference centre, visitor centre, concert bowl and other commercial facilities.

The announcement comes after a pair of unprecedented Chinese development schemes targeting London earlier this year.

Developer ABP China announced in June a £1bn plan to turn London’s Royal Albert Docks into a major new commercial district.

Also in June, China’s Dalian Wanda Group said it would invest approximately £700m in a hotel and residential project in London’s Nine Elms district.

The new Crystal Palace will update the "translucent and delicate structure" of the original ( ZhongRong Group)

"Such eye-popping announcements were relatively unheard of before last year’s purchase of a 9% stake in Thames Water by China’s sovereign wealth fund," Shourav Lahiri, partner with law firm Pinsent Masons, wrote at the time in GCR.

"Now, in the space of a month, they are becoming commonplace."

Unveiling the Crystal Palace plans, Mayor Boris Johnson said he would chair an advisory board to steer the project.

In seeking to develop the 180-acre site, the ZhongRong Group has submitted a request for exclusivity to the local council, Bromley.

A planning application could be submitted as early as autumn 2014 ahead of work starting on site in winter 2015, the developer said.

ZhongRong Group chairman, the billionaire real estate magnate Ni Zhaoxing, said: "London is renowned across the world for its history and culture and the former Crystal Palace is celebrated in China as a magnificent achievement.

"This project is a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring its spirit back to life by recreating The Crystal Palace and restoring the park to its former glory to create a new and exciting destination for local people and international visitors."

The original Crystal Palace

Boris Johnson said it was "an exciting new chapter" for the park: "Paxton’s stunning Crystal Palace was a beacon of innovation in the 19th century, encapsulating a spirit of invention which was to shape London and the world for generations to come.

"Since the iconic building was destroyed, the conundrum of what to do with the crumbling site has not been successfully resolved."

The largest glass structure in the world before burning down, the original Crystal Palace was designed by Joseph Paxton for the 1851 Great Exhibition in London’s Hyde Park.

In 1854 it was expanded and relocated to a south London area that took on the structure’s name.

ZhongRong Group said the new Crystal Palace would update the "translucent and delicate structure" of the original, and will have dimensions similar to the orginal – the length of five football pitches, and six storeys high.

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