Chile is planning a four stories building in London to house its embassy as of next year when the contract for the current location on 12 Devonshire Street comes to an end.
The investment in the 900 square meters new embassy is estimated in 18 million US dollars and would become Chile's second most costly diplomatic seat, according to reports in the Santiago press. The building until March this year was the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health. "The London offices will have 50 people working full time since it will include not only the diplomatic staff but the military attachés offices, consular representation and the export promoting department ProChile and possibly a branch of the Chilean-UK Chamber of Commerce", said Gonzalo Arenas, administrative director of the Foreign Affairs ministry in Santiago. The Chilean authorities decided to invest in the purchase of a building because renting similar facilities in London nowadays would have an annual cost of £ 440.000 sterling so "the choice is obvious". In its current location on 12 Devonshire Street, with a contract dating back to the sixties Chile is paying £ 25.000, but the building was sold to a clinic. It was here that the preparations for the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in the sixties were agreed between Chilean and UK diplomats. The London purchase is part of the Chilean Foreign Affairs program to purchase their own buildings in "relevant" capitals and cities to underline Chilean presence worldwide. The acquisition or refurbish plan which has 130 million US dollars earmarked to be invested in 2009 and 2010 includes the purchase of embassy or residence buildings in Germany, Belgium, Canada, Korea, Italy, Singapore, New York and Geneva. The most expensive leases currently are in Canada and Korea, 20.000 US dollars monthly. Japan and other countries such as Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland are part of a second chapter programmed for 2010/2012. "This plan of purchases means a gradual change from leases to dividends. We already have major properties in 46 different cities", added Arena. The Chilean diplomatic service currently pays annually 15 million US dollars in renting offices and residences all over the world. However once the purchase plan has been concluded the funds can be redistributed "to improve services overseas". Some recent purchases (2007) include a residence in Bolivia, Chile's neighbor to the north and with which there's a pending sea outlet claim from the landlocked country; office building in Bariloche, Argentine Patagonia, where thousands of Chileans live. Mr. Arena said that some Chilean acquisitions in the past have proved excellent investments: in the seventies Chile purchased in Brussels an old mansion which connects with a modern five stories building which houses the embassy before the Belgian government; the mission before the European Union, consular offices and ProChile. At the time Chile paid the equivalent of 1.5 million Euros and today is estimated to have a selling price of 8 million Euros. Something similar can be said of the embassy in Paris which has been valued in 25 million Euros.