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ASHFORD, KENT-The South East England Development Agency [Seeda] has confirmed that Stanhope plc has bested the competition in a “best and final” for development rights to Ashford Channel Tunnel, a 550,000-sf mixed-use vision for the train depot and former cattle market that the agency bought last year.

Jones Lang LaSalle, Seeda’s adviser, has provided a statement from its client, saying the decision opens the door for final negotiations with Stanhope as its preferred developer. “As with any development of this scale further discussions are required to enable a development agreement to be formalized,” agency leaders write in an e-mail, adding the development partner’s name will be announced once talks are completed.

To date, only general information is available about Seeda’s plan for Ashford Town Centre. The project is so hushed that JLL is barred from releasing its team members’ names. A special partnership has been created and is being led by Seeda CEO Pam Alexander for the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympics Games, with a proposal on the table for South East England to become the host region or at least home to pre-game training camps and sports facilities.

Seeda is using public-private partnerships to develop land around the cut-and-cover tunnel bisecting the city. Its Brownfield site, totaling 1.2 hectares [2.9 acres], fronts Lick Road, which is the main ring road through Ashford Town Centre. The agency has a 1.4-hectare tract [3.9 acres] under option, according to its website. Both sites were bought from the surplus stock of the London and Continental railways, which built the Channel Tunnel Rail link. Seeda also owns an 11-story office building, with 8,000 sm2 [86,111 so], that is leased to 20 companies. Several vacant floors are being renovated as a short-term investment for a long-term strategy to incorporate the building into the comprehensive plan for a mixed-use redevelopment of several adjoining sites.

Ashford is one of four areas in southeastern England targeted for “significant growth” initiatives by the government. Sustainable development is an integral part of the strategy to create 31,000 new residences and 28,000 additional jobs by 2031. The focus will be on developing interior sites in and immediately abutting Ashford Town Centre and international passenger station for the next two years and then the project area extended outward.

Stanhope, partially owned by Tokyo-based Mitsui Fudosan, primarily develops headquarters buildings and mixed-use, master-planned projects in Central London and South East England. Stanhope is a founding member of the UK Green Building Council and a veteran developer of public-private partnerships in its UK regions. Its development partners have included the former Bevis Lend Lease, British Land, ING Real Estate, Legal & General, MEC, Mitsubishi Corp., Morley Fund Management and Schroder’s.

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