The building behind the loan: The renovation of a local landmark

Following a purchase by development and asset management firm W.RE, plans to renovate Arding & Hobbs are underway, spurred by a £55m loan from BentallGreenOak to redevelop the property.

On the corner of St John’s Road and Lavender Hill in Clapham Junction sits the Arding & Hobbs department store, one of the largest buildings in south-west London’s transport hub.

The building has, until now, been solely used as a department store, most recently housing the now online-only UK retail brand Debenhams. In its 137-year history, the building has been re-built, undergone several refurbishments and housed a variety of stores for its locals, with its trademark cupola luminating the town at night.

Following a purchase by development and asset management firm W.RE, plans to renovate the much-loved building are underway, spurred by a £55 million (€64 million) loan from BentallGreenOak to redevelop the property.

Built in 1884, the Grade II listed Arding & Hobbs department store was the third flagship store in the Arding and Hobbs partnership which began in 1876. The building was damaged in a 1909 fire and was re-opened in 1910 with a decorative and distinguishable capola.

Following two exchanges of ownership in 1938 and 1948, the store was then bought by Allders in the 1980s, which at the time was one of the largest department store chains in Britain. The now-defunct Allders had planned its own renovations to the building following its acquisition, however Arding & Hobbs was sold to Debenhams in 2005 before these plans could be realised.

W.RE acquired the property in December 2018, as rumours of Debenhams’ future as a department store began to emerge. As with much of the retail industry, the pandemic hastened what many saw as a predictable future for Debenhams, and as it was revealed their Clapham Junction store would not re-open in 2020, W.RE forged ahead with their renovation plans.

The existing building comprises of four storeys and one basement level, and some of the original features from prominent architect James Glen Sivewright Gibsen – who originally designed the building – have remained intact.

The renovation plans would split the floors into retail, leisure and office space, with a new rooftop extension matching the ornate décor of the building. Due to Arding & Hobbs being a local landmark, W.RE consulted with the community about their development plans to ensure that they revived, not spoiled, a listed building that has been loved by many during its lifetime.

In their first loan with BentallGreenOak Andrew Haines, chief operating officer at W.RE spoke of how the facility will help “the building’s potential […] whilst maintaining the heritage of this fantastic landmark.” This will be BGO’s first retail re-invention transaction in the UK, with the aim of doing more in the space as the outlook for high street stores is reimagined.

Planning permission was approved for the development plans in December 2020 and is aiming to complete in 2022. With the £55 million loan from BGO also under their belts, W.RE is keen to write the next chapter for the Arding & Hobbs building to make sure both the building and the community benefit.

1884 – Arding & Hobbs is built as the third flagship store in the Arding and Hobbs partnership which began in 1876

1980s – The building gets acquired by former department store chain Allders from the United Drapery Stores

2005 – Allders sells Arding & Hobbs store to Debenhams

2018 – W.RE acquires the building

2020 – Planning permission is granted for the development plans in December, with completion set for July 2022

2021 – W.RE secures debt finance from BentallGreenOak, worth £55 million, for the redevelopment