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58

SEPTEMBER 2017

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

that the new site would end

up being close to Heathrow

Airport, if not even further

out of town, a pattern that

they had seen in the site

selections for new U.S. mis-

sions in other parts of the

world. But moving out of

central London was never

a serious option. If the U.S.-

U.K. “special relationship”

was to continue to be taken seriously, we needed to maintain a

prominent position in the cityscape of London.

However, after a multiyear search, the State Department

came very close to concluding that we might have to make do

with a renovated Grosvenor Square site after all, even though it

could never meet security standards and various critical utilities

updates would be very costly. Actually finding a building site, and

finding it where we did, surprised us and became an important

part of the story of this project.

When I first told Londoners, not to mention Americans famil-

iar with London, that the newmission would be in the Nine Elms

neighborhood, many had to ask where that was. Until recently a

neighborhood of light warehouses and a wholesale market, Nine

Elms was just a gleam in

developers’ eyes in 2007,

yet the site is as close to

10 Downing Street and

the Foreign Office as the

current embassy, and has a

view of Parliament, as well.

The U.S. mission is the first

foreign embassy ever to be

constructed on the south

bank of theThames, but

others are now following.

Located along the river between the Battersea Power Station

and the Vauxhall headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence

Service, the new site was ripe for development but lacked an

anchor. Much to the delight of borough officials, the embassy

project became that anchor, resulting in a tremendous amount

of new residential and office space in what is essentially central

London.

It was gratifying to make this contribution to a neighborhood

of London that actually needed development. Despite the histori-

cal and emotional connections to Grosvenor Square, it will also

be satisfying to say goodbye to some of our complaining neigh-

bors in stuffy Mayfair. Perhaps they will be more content with the

After a multiyear search,

the State Department came

very close to concluding that

we might have to make do

with a renovated Grosvenor

Square site after all.

WIKIMEDIACOMMONS/CURRAN2/CCBY-SA4.0

The new U.S. Embassy London as seen from the Thames River.