Exclusive: Sir Stuart Lipton-led design team close to taking over mothballed tower, with “helter skelter” design to be scrapped

The Pinnacle

Veteran developer Sir Stuart Lipton is close to securing a landmark deal to rescue London’s stalled Pinnacle tower that would see the distinctive “helter skelter” design scrapped and replaced with a more cost efficient scheme.

As Building first revealed last December, Lipton - one of property’s biggest names, best known for developing London’s iconic eighties Broadgate complex - has engaged a design team and is backed by equity investors in a bid to take over the development of the stalled £1bn tower in the City of London.

This week it emerged that French fund manager Axa is leading a consortium of overseas investors that is in exclusive talks with the Saudi Arabian owners of the prime Square Mile site to buy the development.

It is understood the Axa consortium is backing Lipton’s project team.

If Lipton’s bid is successful - and it is understood that a deal could be completed before Christmas - the high-profile project could be the veteran developer’s first under Lipton Rogers, which he founded in January with former Stanhope technical director Peter Rogers to focus on affordable office schemes.

Lipton’s design team includes architect Karen Cook at PLP, who designed the original Pinnacle and its distinctive helter skelter shape for her previous employer Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), as well as engineer WSP and cost consultant Alinea.

It is understood that Lipton’s team would scrap the existing helter skelter design and replace it with a more cost efficient design, requiring a fresh planning permission.

As Building revealed in September, the City of London is expecting a fresh planning application with an entirely new design for the mothballed site.

At the time Gwyn Richards, the City of London Corporation’s new head of design, said he was in ongoing discussions on the project, with the new scheme likely to come forward for planning in the “next few months”. “It will be a completely different design approach,” he said.

The Pinnacle has been lying dormant since 2012 when finance dried up, after construction of only nine floors of concrete core, earning it the nickname “the stump”.

Property agent CBRE was drafted in by majority owners Sedco and sharia-compliant fund Pramerica last year to explore options for reviving the scheme.

Last December, Lipton told Building he was “looking at the existing CBRE proposal”, which was a variation on the existing KPF design, but Building understands that Lipton’s team is now pursuing a fresh design.

If successful, Lipton’s team will have seen off competition from a number of other investors and development teams, including US developer Hines, teamed up with architect William Matthews, who was project architect on the Shard at Renzo Piano Building Workshop, and Canada-based delivery architect Adamson.

The project team behind the original scheme comprises contractor and joint development manager Brookfield Multiplex, joint development manager Arab Investments, engineer Arup, architect KPF, cost consultant Aecom and M&E consultant Hilson Moran.

Axa, Pinnacle No 1 - the joint venture between Sedco and joint development manager Arab Investments - and Lipton Rogers all declined to comment.

The Pinnacle