Redwood has recently worked with Schroder UK Real Estate Fund (‘SREF’) to announce a 55,380 sq ft letting to Queen Mary University of London (‘Queen Mary’) at Department W – a comprehensively redeveloped office on Mile End Road in Tower Hamlets that was formerly home to Wickham’s department store. The news was well-received by the major trade publications – including EG, Property Week, CoStar and React.

The university will occupy the office space at Department W in its entirety, following the building’s redevelopment by SREF. The agreement for lease has been exchanged subject to completion of landlord works which are currently underway. Once complete, the fifteen-year lease will house one of the additional support units across the property’s five floors. With Queen Mary targeting occupation to commence fit out in mid-2020, the building is due to open to students and staff in early 2021.

Department W has benefitted from an £11m investment programme to comprehensively refurbish and extend the 1927 Beaux Arts building that was formerly occupied by Wickham’s Department Store until its closure in 1965.

A sensitive redevelopment, designed by BuckleyGrayYeoman Architects, married contemporary requirements with historical preservation. Works included the installation of modern facilities – low energy lighting and natural ventilation, cycle storage and lifts, as well as showers and lockers – meeting practical needs and reducing the building’s environmental impact.

Following the redevelopment, Department W was nominated for the BCO (British Council for Offices) Awards 2020 for refurbished / recycled workplace and was shortlisted in 2019 for multiple awards such as the FX International Design Awards and the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Awards. It has also been awarded a WiredScore Gold rating for its digital connectivity and Fitwel accreditation for its contribution to occupier wellbeing.

Critically, however, the redevelopment retained and conserved the building’s Spiegelhalter’s façade. The jewellery business famously refused to sell up in the 1920s to allow the Wickhams to redevelop, forcing them to incorporate the unit into an otherwise extravagant neo-classical frontage design. The resulting iconic juxtaposition is seen as a symbol of defiance and a source of local pride.

The Spiegelhalter’s frontage now serves as the main entrance to Department W, with the void behind the shopfront forming a courtyard with artwork to commemorate the unique story. SREF installed replica gold sovereigns into the cobbled entrance to pay homage to the story of the Spiegelhalters’ refusal to sell despite Wickham’s offer to fill their shop with gold sovereigns.

The redevelopment has also retained the original department store manager’s office, complete with its own safe, and original 1920s wooden staircases and glass skylight domes.

Redwood is the retained PR consultant to SREF, Schroders’ award-winning real estate fund launched in 1971. Currently valued at £2.3 billion, the SREF portfolio comprises office, residential, industrial and retail assets across the UK.

As part of our role, Redwood is responsible for delivering all corporate and transactional announcements, providing crisis management support and ongoing strategic communications advice. In addition, Redwood delivers proactive media engagement campaigns, including arranging press interviews and speaking opportunities, preparing features, comment and column pieces, and delivering tailored roundtable events and providing support at industry conferences.