Stéphanie Bensimon: We bought the West Bridge building with LaSalle in June 2017 from its occupier, Lagardère, and we had 18 months to plan the refurbishment before they left in December 2018. The building was obsolete, but we liked the size and location and we thought there was an opportunity to do something that would transform the Levallois area, so we launched a contest between four renowned architectural practices. We were approached almost immediately by WPP, who were looking to create a campus for their agencies based in Paris. They first saw the building in October when the process was just getting started.
Piers Knuckey: That’s what we liked about the project – an existing concrete frame with potential. When Ardian and LaSalle confirmed they were going to double the capacity of the building from 1,300 to 2,500 people and increase the width of the floorplate from 12 to 18 meters, we felt this building would provide us with the flexibility we were aiming for. Also, as the project involved reusing most of the existing structure from the late 1980s, we were doing the right thing environmentally. There’s a lot of talk about “green buildings” but the greenest building of all is the one that already exists. Key to the project’s success was having approached Ardian and LaSalle at the very beginning. It gave us the opportunity to achieve more of what we were looking for. After our first visit to the building, we invited Ardian and LaSalle to London to tour our state-of-theart offices at Sea Containers House and explain our campus philosophy. It was a good fit: we all wanted to create a unique product in Levallois.
for WPP’s new campus in Paris, due to open in 2021
Stéphanie Bensimon: It was really impressive to see how far they had already gone in London in terms of what works for them and their employees. It’s very unusual for future tenants to be so closely involved in the way we refurbish a building, but working with them gave us fantastic insight into what this type of tenant was looking for. The result was a project that achieved even higher standards than we were originally planning because we had their input from the start. We can see from the market that the way tenants want to use their buildings is changing completely, so this was a great opportunity to understand what they want. It was a very valuable experience.
Piers Knuckey: The reason we were so keen to help shape the project is that real estate has become a key enabler of WPP’s corporate strategy. Our global campus strategy brings our agencies together under one roof and encourages greater collaboration, creativity and innovation among our people. Having a single location in-market enables us to provide integrated solutions for our clients and in turn, gives them easier access to the breadth and depth of talent across WPP. In 2021, when Paris opens, we will have about 2,500 people sharing world-class, dynamic spaces where they can meet, eat, work and welcome clients and partners. By partnering early with the developer, it meant we could get the important facilities we were looking for, such as a double-height townhall and restaurant space on the ground floor and a 150-seat auditorium. We also convinced them to extend the lifts to the rooftop garden on the ninth floor so it can be accessed directly from reception.
added to the existing building
Stéphanie Bensimon: We had a very constructive working relationship where we always found the right balance between creating a project that was as standard as possible and one that was as tailored as possible to their needs. We took the risk to go as far as having a restaurant on the eighth floor and triple height entrance halls, and WPP agreed with us about targeting the highest possible standards. I think this is going to be the best building in the area and, given its size and location, a unique asset.
users, up from 1,300 in old building
Piers Knuckey: That was the intention on both sides, I think – to create a new standard for prime buildings.
Stéphanie Bensimon: Definitely. Our strategy is to buy buildings that we can reposition and to create value regardless of the property cycle. With WPP’s help, we’ve developed a super-prime asset in Levallois with twice the potential occupancy of the original building. It’s a great example of what our fund aims to do.