Gehry backed out and now so has investor, ING – the King Alfred project is dead
The King Alfred development in Hove was to be Frank Gehry’s first commercial venture in the UK, but following a series of difficulties over planning and redesign, Gehry pulled out last week stating in British newspaper, the Times that, “Something happened there that I don’t quite understand”. Today, local press have revealed that the financial backers, ING Real Estate, have also abandoned the project, inevitably signalling its permanent demise.
Heather James, Communications Director at Karis Holdings, the leisure and housing project’s developer, last week seemed nervous but adamant that the project would continue despite Gehry pulling out. Speaking of the prospect that planning may not be viable without Gehry on board, she said: “No, we already have our planning so that’s ok.”
Having commenced a review of the project on 2 June it has been clear that the development was in jeopardy. James, however, said: “As you would imagine we are constantly reviewing the project as would be the case with most architectural firms during this credit crunch.”
£13 million has already been spent on the project and Chairman and Managing Director of Karis, Josh Arghiros, is in a fight against time to secure new funding before the project crumbles beyond repair. He told Brighton newspaper, the Argus, that he was in talks with two prospective investors and hoped that Gehry would come in to revise the project: “We want to have Frank Gehry on board to amend the scheme and I think this could give us the opportunity to get the best of this. We now need to sit down with the council and discuss viability.”
However, as investor ING were included in the planning consent, this would now be void and it is dubious that Gehry will return to the project. Speaking last week of the cloaked exit by Gehry, James said: “The British planning system is not designed to cater for architects like Frank Gehry... I think it’s quite difficult to cater for architects to keep changing designs. We do have to have a cut-off point.”
King Alfred also involves architects HOK sport and CZWG but even their involvement seems shaky given the response by CZWG’s Piers Gough that he “doesn’t have very much to contribute on the matter”. Karis Holdings were unavailable to comment following the most recent revelations.
Niki May Young