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Exclusive: Principal reveals how King’s snapped up Aldwych Quarter in just six weeks

Main: Principal Ed Byrne / Johnny Tam. Inset: Strand House / Matt Livey

KING’S snapped up the Aldwych Quarter in just six weeks in a completely unexpected opportunity that stunned university chiefs – Principal Ed Byrne told Roar this afternoon.

Ed ‘Babe’ Byrne refused to reveal the cost of the expansion –  which will double the size of the Strand Campus  – due to “commercial confidence”, but described the buildings as “one of the most prized assets in the UK“.

“I didn’t really imagine that King’s would be able to secure something like this,” he said. “We had to act quickly,” he added, “and we’ve taken it.”

King’s plans to lease the Aldwych Quarter, comprising of King House, Strand House, Melbourne House and Bush House, subject to legal approval.

King’s hopes the new additions to the Strand campus will be fully functional as soon as September 2016.

The Virginia Woolf Building may also be sold off in the next ten years as Ed said the lease was very “expensive”– and the James Clerk Maxwell Building in Waterloo will be sold “within five years” to help fund investment in medical campuses.

Ed said King’s looked at the recently-demolished building opposite KCLSU on Surrey Street, Strand Campus, but said the College couldn’t afford it.

The College also looked at Somerset House but said that it was unavailable and “frankly not fit for purpose in terms of its design for state-of-the-art teaching and learning space.”

Roar will tour the Aldwych Quarter on Friday – check back for exclusive photos

He said two thirds of the Aldwych Quarter will be acquired “immediately” – within the next six to eight weeks – and the remaining third to coincide with the expiry of the VWB lease.

It’s expected that the expansion into the Aldwych Quarter will not change the Strand redevelopment plans – which include building a glass-floored Quad, and an Embankment entrance – and will actually speed up the process and minimise disruption.

Under the previous plans, Ed admitted that the Strand campus would have been “a building site for six to eight years,” in order to allow for continued teaching while building occurred.

It’s now hoped that the Aldwych buildings will allow King’s to complete the Strand redevelopment process within three years.

Ed wouldn’t reveal costs due to “commercial confidence” but said they would “appear [in the College’s accounts] in due course”.

The Principal said the “next stage” was consulting with students and staff, which will begin as early as next Monday.

A committee will be set up with staff and student representation, with working groups on the key issues – each of which will have student representation.

Vice Principal Karen O’Brien also told Roar that consultation would be so detailed as to go down to the detail of “fabrics” used in the newly acquired buildings.

The expansion aligns with the current King’s Futures plans to increase the number of students studying at King’s over the next few years.

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