Blow for Hackney as big players pull out of race to rent space in Olympics media centre

Olympics media centre by Regents Canal Hackney Lon 22.01.12 © ∂å

HACKNEY COUNCIL’S hopes for the multibillion-dollar US company Google to lease the media centre after the Olympic Games have been frustrated.

Instead of luring one of the world’s most influential companies, the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) has been able to rustle up a shortlist only of smallish operations that want to move into the 93,000 sq m Broadcast and Press Centre at Hackney Wick.

Mayor of Hackney Jules Pipe, London Mayor Boris Johnson, and the LibDem government had hoped that the building would form the eastern end of a new Silicon Valley running from the Tech Hub in Shoreditch to the Olympic Park that would create thousands of high-quality jobs.

It is the second setback for Pipe over the media centre, which the OPLC has found difficult to let because of its size and weak transport links. Last summer the BBC said it would decline an invitation to move production of EastEnders to the site which, somewhat pathetically, had been given the area the same postcode, E20, as the hugely popular TV soap opera.

Putting a brave face on events: Mayor Pipe and, top, drawing of the media centre
Putting a brave face on events: Mayor Pipe and, top, the media centre

Pipe put a brave face on the shortlist, describing it as “strong”. He told Loving Dalston: “Hackney council looks forward to working closely with the Legacy Company and the three shortlist bidders to establish which bid best aligns with the council’s long-held aspirations for this location.”

Local MP Meg Hillier was more open, giving notice that she would be keeping a close eye on developments. She told this site: “The winning bidder must be required to prioritise local people for jobs. Companies bent or flouted the local employment rules on construction and must not get away with it again.”

Meg Hillier MP
Watching: Hackney South and Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier

Andrew Boff, the London Assembly’s Conservative spokesman on the Olympics, said “It’s not good enough just to be in awe of large building projects; it’s jobs and the opportunities for training that matter. I’ll be looking at those bids in detail and will expect the OPLC to choose the tenant that best meets that aim without further committing taxpayers’ money.”

Peter Bill, former Estates Gazette editor and doyen of property commentators, referring to one bid’s entitling itself “UK Fashion Hub”,  said: “In property ‘hub’ is code for ‘What the hell else can we do with this dammed White Elephant?’”

The shortlist comprised “three smallish and untested firms”, he said, one of which “wants to turn it into a fashion hub, another into a sport and retail hub and the third into an IT… well, you’ve guessed. This white elephant might die some time before 2020.”

* On the short list: UK Fashion Hub, Oxylane Group and iCITY. The OPLC aims to choose a tenant by August next year 2012.

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