Butlers Wharf Building sold for pounds 20m

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PART of Sir Terence Conran's troubled Butlers Wharf development near Tower Bridge in London has been sold for pounds 20m. The project was put into administrative receivership in December 1990 owing Midland Bank pounds 70m, thought to be the bank's largest single property exposure.

Kommunernes Pensionsforsikring of Copenhagen, Denmark's third-largest life assurance company, has bought the freehold of Butlers Wharf Building, which houses Sir Terence's acclaimed Pont de la Tour restaurant, food and wine shop on the ground floor.

The other half of the 16,000 sq ft of ground floor retail space remains unlet, as does the entire first floor office accommodation.

Only six of the 88 flats carved out of the upper storeys of the building have been sold so far. The receiver, Ernst & Young, has rented out the bulk of the remainder, but 23 are still empty.

Asking prices range from pounds 130,000 for a studio to pounds 425,000 for a three-bedroom flat. Rents run from pounds 200 to pounds 400 a week.

The Danish purchase was described by Nigel Hamilton, one of the administrative receivers, as an 'unqualified statement of confidence' in the development. The receivers hope it will be the first of a series of disposals.

Sir Terence, design guru and former head of Habitat and Storehouse, bought the 11-acre Butlers Wharf site from P&O, the property and shipping group, in 1984.

He intended to redevelop its 23 existing 19th century buildings into homes, offices, shops and a hotel. The site is also home to his brainchild, the Design Museum.

When the project collapsed only one block, Butlers Wharf Building, had been completed. Since then the receivers have finished a second block, the Cardamom Building, which has 64 flats. Sales of these properties, which were cheaper than those at Butlers Wharf, have been relatively successful with about 50 so far sold.