Soho Square Bomb Shelter For Sale
Tuesday, 20 January 2015 | Admin
A World War Two air raid shelter in the heart of the West End could be transformed into a glamorous subterranean restaurant after being put on the market for £175,000.
The “remarkable” 3,200 sq ft brick and concrete shell where hundreds of Londoners sought refuge from the ferocity of the German Blitz lies directly under the gardens of Soho Square just off Oxford Street.
Westminster Council is offering a long lease on the shelter, which has already attracted interest from at least three restaurant groups and gym and music venue operators.
David Hooper of agents GVA, which is handling the letting, said: ”The restaurant market in central London is so hot at the moment that anything new and interesting is going to be well received. It’s going to need a couple of million spent on a fit out but people don’t seem to be put off by that. The floor to ceiling height is incredibly good.”
Details seen by the Standard describe the “Soho Bunker” as “an opportunity for a suitable use to take an interesting space...and create a real destination.” However, it is thought unlikely that planners would allow it to be turned into a bar.
The entrance to the shelter, which also includes an electricity sub-station, is on the western side of the Square and there is an emergency fire escape exit through the Grade II listed mock-Tudor gardener’s cottage at its centre
The shelter was one of dozens hastily built across central London after the outbreak of war in 1939. Leslie Hardcastle, president of the Soho Society, said he recalls spending the night in the shelter several times during the war.
He said: ”It was lined with about 12 inches of brick and had concrete as a roof. It could take about 150 to 200 people initially although that became less when they put tiers of bunks in. The only facility was a toilet and it could get quite smelly with all the people down there.”
Westminster has come under increasing pressure to make more money from its collection of unusual properties by the squeeze on local authority funding. In another example underground toilets in Fitrovia were turned into a cafe in 2013.
Guy Slocombe, Westminster City Council’s Head of Investment, said: “We are proud to have the lowest council tax in the country, and this is partly down to the innovative way we use the council’s assets to generate income wherever appropriate.
“We have a strong track record in delivering asset management, as well as looking after the sites that are so important to Westminster’s heritage.
“With its unusual location and unique history, we will ensure a suitable use for the Soho Square site. After all, it isn’t every day an old World War Two bunker comes on the market.”
Jonathan Prynn, Evening Standard.