A&O eyes Hackney HQ

Northgate scheme hot favourite for new home; partners unwilling to mimic CC’s Canary Wharf move

Allen & Overy (A&O) has added Hackney to its list of possible future homes. A decision on the options available was due to have been taken a fortnight ago, but has been postponed to give the firm time to consider the new possibility.`The firm is now understood to be looking at Lehman Brothers’ Northgate scheme in the London Borough of Hackney, which recently won approval from London Mayor Ken Livingstone. The Mayor had raised concerns about the scheme’s compatibility with regeneration plans for Hackney when it was referred to him by the council in March. Having won his approval, Lehman is about to start marketing the scheme, which includes more than 900,000sq ft of offices as well as leisure, retail and restaurant establishments. Lehmans no longer needs the site after choosing Canary Wharf for its own headquarters.`A source close to the team looking for A&O’s new home said: “The main focal point is to get the right site with inherent flexibility and the right financial terms.”`Any deal would need to accommodate A&O’s rapidly changing growth projections. There is also an ongoing debate within the firm about the appeal of the various sites under consideration. Not surprisingly, Canary Wharf, where Clifford Chance is soon moving, is proving to be a particularly contentious option.`The firm is also looking at Spitalfields and 201 Bishopsgate. Paternoster Square is understood to have slipped further down the list due to the amount of space available and London Bridge City is less of a possibility due to likely delays in delivery.`The market has also shifted since A&O began its search in earnest last year. One source said: “Because the market has now softened, there are perhaps less people prepared to commit to getting this amount of space. The balance of power has shifted slightly towards the tenant.”`A&O’s lease at One New Change expires in 2006. The firm set up a sub-committee to look at premises options a year ago. The committee is coordinated by senior partner John Rink and litigation group managing partner Andrew Clark.