U.S. Embassy London
Update on Perimeter Security Project
28 March 2007
Hardhats, JCBs (backhoes to Americans), and shovels – this must be the American Embassy in London! Anyone walking past the U.S. Embassy on Grosvenor Square, or queuing for a visa, will have noticed that the Embassy has been turned into a construction site. The JCBs and container offices are in place for the installation of a $15 million upgrade to improve the safety and appearance of the chancery.
U.S. Ambassador Robert Tuttle and Westminster City officials broke ground on the project in late November 2006, and the upgrade, begun in February 2007, will take approximately a year to complete.
The first stage of the project includes building the construction plant, locating underground utilities, and laying out the site. The construction crew is taking special care to protect the plane trees that surround the Embassy.
The familiar statue of General Eisenhower – already in protective covering – will be moved about twenty feet southeast, to accommodate a raised planting area and walkway.
Project supervisor Ron Riggs has supervised similar Embassy security projects for U.S. Embassies around the world, including Moscow, Lima and Nicosia. “What makes this project a particular challenge,” he says, “is the compact space, the heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and the underground utilities. But, I love a challenge.”
Over the course of the next few months, the old security barriers will be removed, and the new fence and bollards will be installed. Retractable bollards will be installed on both Upper Grosvenor Street and Upper Brook Street to allow for road closures in the event that UK authorities direct that the two roads should be closed.
“It’s important to have that option,” says Embassy Facilities Manager Jerry Pifer. “While we are the ones installing the bollards, it will be UK law enforcement authorities, specifically the Metropolitan Police, who will make any decision about road closures.”
The perimeter security project is designed to make the Embassy and its surroundings not only safer, but more attractive. The new project calls for an elegant iron fence, with extensive planting around the perimeter, and two large entry pavilions to facilitate faster and easier entrance for those with visa and other appointments at the Embassy. The current chain-link fencing and bulky concrete barriers will – to the relief of many – disappear.
“We are aware that current security around the Embassy, installed soon after September 11, 2001, is, frankly, unsightly,” says Embassy Administrative Counselor Richard Jaworski. “But, we have a duty to make our Embassy and the people in it safe, and we believe that improving Embassy security also translates into better security for the surrounding neighborhood. And, when construction is finished, it will all look much better.”
The United States Government is footing the bill for the $15 million project, which is expected to be completed in early 2008.