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China’s Crystal Palace
26 July 2013 | By Sarah Townsend
Billionaire Shanghai-based developer plans radical reconstruction of 900,000 sq ft Victorian building
A billionaire Chinese developer has submitted radical plans to rebuild the Victorian Crystal Palace that housed the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Shanghai-based developer ZhongRong Holdings, part of ZhongRong Group, proposes to develop an exact replica of the 900,000 sq ft cast-iron and glass structure designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, which was first erected in Hyde Park and then relocated to the south-east London site after the exhibition.
The original Crystal Palace burned down in 1936. It occupied a site in the north-western part of what is now known as Crystal Palace Park, which houses the Greater London Authority-owned National Sports Centre and its 15,500-seat athletics stadium.
It is understood ZhongRong Holdings submitted initial proposals for the reconstruction in June.
The company is working with the Greater London Authority, Bromley Council and Arup in early-stage talks to develop the proposals, with a view to submitting a planning application later this year.
The new building will be a public space for exhibitions and other events. Architects have yet to be appointed.
The scheme also contains retail and other commercial elements. However, the parties involved are understood to be keen to ensure the scheme does not detract from the “Crystal Palace Triangle” — three streets close to the park with a burgeoning cluster of independent shops and restaurants.
The project is expected to provide the necessary private investment to help Bromley Council progress stalled plans to regenerate the park. In 2007, the council drew up a £67.5m masterplan for Crystal Palace Park through now-defunct quango the London Development Agency, to include a new sports centre with a swimming pool, sports hall and health facilities, a car park and new housing.
The masterplan was signed off by communities secretary Eric Pickles in 2010, subject to revisions, but has met with opposition from local residents who wish to protect the park from redevelopment.
On 26 June the Court of Appeal threw out the most recent legal challenge to the plans. It is understood the idea to put housing on the park is not being discussed now because of the previous controversy it aroused.
ZhongRong Group was established in 1992 to focus primarily on the Chinese real estate sector.
Its schemes include the Jasper Tower, Hengrui International Plaza and the International Business City in Shanghai’s Pudong district.
The company is owned and chaired by Ni Zhaoxing, who is worth $1.25bn, the latest Forbes Rich List shows.
A spokeswoman for the mayor of London said: “The mayor and the London Borough of Bromley have been approached by a potential developer who is keen to redevelop a large section of the north side of the park.
Discussions between all parties remain at a very early feasibility stage but the plans do not include any residential development.”
A spokesman for Bromley Council said: “The exact nature of the discussions and the parties involved remains confidential.”
Category: Local News and Sport