'Erotic gherkin' starts to attract tenants

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The Independent Online

The "erotic gherkin" that has thrust itself onto the City's skyline will become inhabited next week when Swiss Re, the reinsurer that commissioned the office building, will begin moving staff into its new headquarters.

The company is transferring its 800 London employees into the 590ft conical glass and steel building over a period of two months and the reinsurer will occupy up to 14 of the building's 40 floors. Swiss Re is now looking for tenants for some of the remaining floors available for rent. The building can accommodate up to 4,000 people and a number of retail outlets are planned for its ground floor.

The distinctive diamond-shaped glass panels that snake up the curved sides of the building designed by British architect Norman Foster have captured the Londoner's imagination, but no tenants have been found as yet. The City has emptied in recent years as financial institutions have struggled against the stock market downturn. Staff have been relocated to developing areas such as London's Docklands, where rents are cheaper. But prime rental space in the City is still low, at around £45 per square foot, down from a recent £60 per square foot.

"Rental activity is picking up in the City for the first time in two years. But rents are not going to rise immediately," Bradley Baker, the head of City agencies at Knight Frank, said yesterday. "The Swiss Re building is, however, the coolest building to have been built in London for 25 years. It has a very high profile and lots of people will be attracted to its iconic status."

The new tower will officially be known as 30, St Mary Axe. It takes over the site of the former Baltic Exchange, which was destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1993, and is estimated to have cost more than £200m.

It was built with a double skin of glass and steel that has been designed to trap heat and sunlight for a more economical use of energy. A restaurant for the tower's tenants will occupy the top floors.