We’ve reported many times on the big project underway to convert the former Debenhams at Clapham Junction, which is reverting to its original name as Arding and Hobbs, to a modern office space, with two new floors on the roof and shops at the ground level. Developers W.RE have released a new set of artists’ impressions of what the office will look like when it is complete, and we have reproduced a few of them here. Above: the roof terrace which runs along the Lavender Hill side of the building, which has transformed an area of air conditioning units and sheds, to a proper outside space for the new offices being built on the upper levels. And below: an artists’ impression of the interior with the stained glass cupola that used to be Debenhams’ top floor cafe.
The building might have been looking a bit tired towards the end of its days as a large department store, but it hid some impressive secrets from its early days – for example last summer Construction Management reported that the builders had found another stained glass ceiling – shown below – that had been completely painted over, and which was now being carefully restored to feature in the new offices.
We previously noted that progress had been good on letting the shops, with Albion & East set to occupy the corner unit as a pub, described as “Open all-day & late-night with early-morning coffee, brunch & hot-desking in the day to cocktails, wood-fired pizza & DJs at night and everything in-between“, and Amazon Fresh also set to take a unit along St John’s Road to make a checkout-free convenience supermarket. But Amazon Fresh’s rollout of convenience stores has not been as smooth a ride as Amazon had hoped, with reports that they had substantially scaled back their expansion plans. And the planned store at Clapham Junction seems to have been dropped as part of this, with that 3,700 square foot unit – the dark green one listed as ‘Tenant B‘ on the floor plan below – now available to let again. It’s a well-placed space on a busy stretch of St John’s Road and there are plenty of retailers likely to be having another look now it’s back on the market (one of which is likely to be Boots, who have an awkwardly-shaped and undersized unit a few doors down the road, and one that’s maybe too big and whose lease runs out in May next year on Falcon Road).
Another reason W.RE probably won’t be too disappointed by Amazon walking away, is that they have made progress in letting the biggest retail unit of all, the one on the corner of Lavender Hill and Ilminster Gardens (the light green one listed as ‘Tenant C‘, which had in the final years before closure been Debenhams’ Shoe Boutique and a Joe and the Juice concession). It only has a small ground floor, but these house a lift and stairs that run down to a gigantic basement – and it has unsurprisingly been let to a tenant planning to create a large gym there. We’re not sure which gym (let us know if you know!), but this is a sensible use of the space.
But back to the visuals of the newly refurbished building. The image above is a cutaway of the whole structure, showing the two-storey extension that has been gradually taking shape over the last year, and the picture below shows it in a bit more detail.
This photo shows the building above in construction, with a large concrete pump sending some concrete to somewhere on the upper levels –
This next image is the planned reception for the office floors, which will be in the area that was previously the main entrance to Debenhams on St John’s Road (the section with the escalators – which were planned to be retained in the new building as pictured below). While the retail sections will be fitted out by tenants, meaning that what we end up with won’t necessarily bear much ressemblance to artists’ impressions, there’s a good prospect that the end product in this particular bit of the building does end up looking a lot like this, as W.RE are fitting it out themselves as the landlord.
This next illustration of the reception is looking at the same area from the right.
The original ornate plasterwork ceilings have been kept – the same ceilings that have been restored as a feature in some parts of T.K.Maxx next door (and which are still there even in the parts of the building – our photo below shows an area that got uncovered in T.K.Maxx when the works created a small leak in the ceiling, and some of the false ceiling was removed).
Meanwhile, as we reported a while back the canopy over the pavement – which was not an original feature, but had been added in the 1960s – has been removed. Our photo below shows it in its final weeks…
…and the next one shows it shortly after the main bit was cut off (with the remains of the big red support girders visible)…
…and finally, here is Arding & Hobbs in its new incarnation. The 1960s canopy had been built very low: it was a surprisingly robust structure, and for reasons we may never know, even the top of it was at least a foot below the top of the original windows – hence the large space above the girders in the photo above. This means that removing it has had quite an impressive effect, letting a lot more natural light in to the shops.
W.RE have made the most of all this extra height as they installed big new windows for their existing tenant T.K.Maxx, with bronze frames that are much more in keeping with the original design of Arding & Hobbs. The white stripe in our photo below is original marble, which wasn’t particularly visible before as the canopy below it got in the way, but which has been lightly cleaned up.
The original plans also included adding a retractable awning – echoing the ones that used to be in place when the building was built, pictured below. It’s not clear whether reinstating the awnings is still part of the plans, but we suspect that this might be what is planned for the recessed areas above the glazed sections above.
One nice touch: another new sign has been installed for T.K.Maxx in the original ‘shop signage’ area, which departs slightly from their usual red and white, in favour of more muted gold lettering that’s in keeping with the listed building they’re trading from. There’s still some way to go on the building works even though the most intensive phase of building is now winding down – and while we understand some of the office space is now under offer, there’s still space if you know someone looking for a new workspace! But as we start to see some of the end products of this refurbishment project, it’s fair to say the quality is looking good.
W.RE have pushed the boat out on this project, investing substantial amounts of money in a proper root-and-branch refurbishment of every part of the building, while remaining true to their word that they would work with the building to restore its original features, and bring back the flair it had rather lost after years of underinvestment by a string of department store owners. We look forward to seeing the rest unveiled over the course of the year, and as ever – will keep you posted.
If you’ve not seen it before, do take a look at our post back in 2020 just as this development started, setting out what we can expect to see.
What a superb effort. I cannot wait to get up there on that roof space and have a look around!
Wow, so glad original features being respected and restored. An exiting landmark for future generations to enjoy
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