Will Crossroads be India’s most expensive office?

Will Crossroads be India’s most expensive office?

Mumbai’s newest and most expensive office space could well be in its oldest mall.

Future Group, whose flagship company Pantaloon Retail India Ltd, is India’s largest listed retailer, could end up converting Crossroads, the country’s first mall, into the city’s plushest office building, with some retail space.

People in the city’s commercial real estate industry say Swiss investment bank UBS has leased 80,000 sq. ft of the 150,000 sq. ft space.

If the deal goes through, UBS could pay at least Rs400 a sq. ft for its office, making Crossroads the most expensive office space in Mumbai, according to real estate consultants. Ceejay House, which is also in Worli, is currently Mumbai’s most expensive office building with rentals going for around Rs375 a sq. ft.

UBS is said to have selected an architectural firm from several bids to design its new offices, according to an architect from a Mumbai firm who did not wish to be named. UBS managing director Manisha Girotra could not be reached for comment.

“The intention is to make it (Crossroads) an office space, but it depends on getting permissions to change the use of the space from retail to office," said Anuj Puri, chairman and country head of Jones Lang LaSalle, a property consulting company that worked on the project.

“We will have prestige retailers in this mall," said Kishore Biyani, group chief executive officer of Future Group. He said some of Future’s own brands, such as Replay, will also be present in the mall and that there were “no conclusive" plans to convert Crossroads into an office space.

Rockwell Group, the New York-based architectural firm founded by celebrated architect David Rockwell, had designed the building. According to that plan, the ground floor of the building was to house luxury retail stores with the rest going to offices. A spokesperson for Rockwell Group did not reply to an email query sent on Wednesday.

Rockwell is well known for designing restaurants such as Nobu and Vong, Los Angeles’ Kodak Theatre, which hosts the Academy Awards.

Future Group had bought the seven-year-old Crossroads mall in 2006. The mall, in the city’s Haji Ali area, had become a regular tourist destination, but had few upscale stores. Future Group had said it would be converted into the first luxury mall for retail.

Crossroads will now look at renting space to investment banks, private equity firms and other financial services firms, much like Ceejay House, which houses investment bank CSFB, Barclays Bank and Lehman Brothers, among others.

“This building would be great for office space because of its location and it is equidistant to most places. Also, while there is space coming up for IT offices, it cannot be used for private equity and investment banks. So, financial services companies lack viable alternatives," said Sourav Goswami, managing director of Walton Street Capital India Pvt. Ltd, which makes private equity investments in real estate.

Work on the Crossroads mall could start soon and could be completed by the middle of next year.