For 200 years, the U.S. Embassy to Great Britain has resided at London's Grosvenor Square, but that may all be changing if the U.S. State Department has its way.
The United States announced plans Thursday to leave its landmark embassy in central London's tony Mayfair district and build a safer facility in a far less fashionable suburb south of the River Thames .... Over the last decade, U.S. diplomatic outposts have been transformed from showcases for American openness to heavily defended fortresses. Around the world from Athens to Abidjan, embassies built in a spirit of [sic] with colonial elegance or postwar openness have been transformed with fences, blast walls and other barriers against attack.
"This has been a long and careful process," U.S. Ambassador Robert Tuttle said in a statement last Thursday. "We looked at all of our options, including renovation of our current building in Grosvenor Square. In the end, we realized that the goal of a modern, secure and environmentally sustainable embassy could best be met by constructing a new facility."
The move, however, is contigent on approval from the U.S. Congress as well as U.K. authorities. The State Department also hopes the move will be self-financing. The embassy at Grosvenor Square sits on prime real estate, and as Tuttle told the BBC, he has a "valuable leasehold to sell."
Time reports the move will not be popular with embassy staff as it moves them away from London's tony shopping district for a gritty stretch of road known for its bus station, a supermarket, and a gay sauna. Nevertheless, the move will place the embassy closer to Parliament and will be in walking distance of MI-6 headquarters—Britain's foreign intelligence service.
The U.S. Embassy will hold an international design competition for its structure, one that emphasizes eco-friendliness and "celebrate[s] the values of freedom and democracy."