CAMPAIGNS: PUBLIC AFFAIRS; London joins the sky high club

Client: Trafalgar House Property Limited, part of Kvaerner ASA PR Team: In-House(Kvaerner Corporate Communications) Campaign: Press conference to unveil the proposal for the London Millennium Tower. Time: 9 September, 1996 Budget: pounds 75,000

Client: Trafalgar House

Property Limited, part of Kvaerner ASA

PR Team: In-House(Kvaerner Corporate Communications)

Campaign: Press conference to unveil the proposal for the London

Millennium Tower.

Time: 9 September, 1996

Budget: pounds 75,000



On the 9 September proposals for the London Millennium Tower were

announced at a press conference at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference

Centre. Designed by Sir Norman Foster, the proposed Millennium Tower

consists of a 92-storey office tower on the site of the Baltic Exchange,

which was badly damaged by an IRA bomb in 1992.



At 1,265ft, the building would be the tallest in Europe, with 1.5

million sq ft of usable space for offices, dealing floors, apartments,

restaurants, cafes and gardens as well as a proposed public viewing

gallery.



Funding for the building is to be raised from external investors and an

anchor tenant, who has already agreed to lease in excess of 600,000 sq

ft.



Objective



To generate debate on the London Millennium Tower project, prior to

submission of a planning application to the London Corporation.



Tactics



A total of 120 journalists and 12 TV crews were invited to the press

conference at very short notice, the intention being to add an air of

mystery to the event. Consequently journalists arrived without the

benefit of a pre-briefing or prepared questions.



The conference took the form of a slide presentation, hosted by Sir

Norman Foster who explained the rationale behind the scheme.



According to Paul Emberley, head of corporate communications at

Kvaerner, Sir Norman Foster’s ‘personal influence’ and his reputation

for designing ‘landmark’ buildings played a major part in his company

winning the contract.



At the conference Foster described the project as ‘following in

historical tradition’ adding that its ‘elegantly slim’ form would make

it ‘more subtle’ than ‘yet another boring, four-square imposition’.



Following the conference the press were taken to the Baltic Exchange

site, a listed building which will have to be demolished if the

Millennium Tower is to be constructed.



Result



The press coverage generated was extensive, with all the national

newspapers carrying the story and extensive news bulletins aired on the

main BBC programmes during the day, Newsnight and ITN.



The proposal also stimulated additional features on related subjects

ranging from architecture and office space to community affairs.



The tone of the coverage was mixed. The most compelling argument put

forward for the tower was its commercial value as demand grows for large

areas of office space among financial sector tenants and some

journalists felt the Millennium Tower will add to the City’s image as a

financial centre.



Conversely there were cries that every other European city had retained

its traditional skyline and the Tower would dominate the London skyline,

pushing St Paul’s aside and ruining the City’s historic streets.



Verdict



Kvaener’s announcement certainly stimulated the desired debate, although

the press were divided on the project’s merits. However, Emberley, says

that company was pleased with the media response.



The press conference however drew some media criticism, starting late as

it did, with little or no information available prior to the

announcement. The general consensus among journalists was that the

presentation itself was too long and technical.



What impact the press coverage will have on the planning application -

particularly if rumours that the Baltic Exchange may take legal action

against English Heritage and City Corporation if the proposed

redevelopment is allowed, are correct - will not be clear until the

application is processed early next year.



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