Jan. 11 - Western Europe's tallest building, the Shard, has unveiled a viewing gallery that will open next month but the building is yet to confirm a single tenant for over half a million square feet of office space. Ivor Bennett reports.
It's a building that dominates London's skyline, and from the bottom it's a struggle to see the top. But once you're high up the Shard, the view is breathtaking - stretching 40 miles on a clear day. The Shard's viewing gallery opens to the public next month. But at £25, entry doesn't come cheap. Chief executive Andy Nyberg insists it's worth the money. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ANDY NYBERG, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF "THE VIEW FROM THE SHARD", SAYING: "Three hundred and sixty degree views of London from a height not seen in London before, I think they are the best views in the world. Compared to other observation decks in other parts of the world you are looking at a tapestry of history that isn't there in other parts of the world." (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER IVOR BENNETT, SAYING: "At 309 meters tall, the Shard is the highest building in Western Europe and it can be seen from all over London. But 6 months on after its grand opening, it's still struggling to find tenants." The lights may be on, but so far nobody's home. A hotel due to open in a few months' time is still the only confirmed tenant. The 30 floors below are all empty - totaling 600-thousand square feet of office space. Its location south of the river is outside the city's financial district. For property consultant Simon Wainwright, it's not just the wrong place, it's the wrong time too. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SIMON WAINWRIGHT, MANAGING DIRECTOR, J PEISER WAINWRIGHT, SAYING: "What we've seen is a complete drying up of demand. All the major financial institutions, the normal key drivers of the market, are all sitting on their hands. They're extending leases a little bit, they're just waiting to see what happens with the global economy before making commitments to take large area of space on long term leases at fairly punchy rents." London's so-called Gherkin is a monument to the market's better times. The now-iconic building opened in 2004 with all floors already let. The team behind the Shard hope it'll be fully occupied by the end of next year. Until then though the windows will still need cleaning. A mammoth 18-day job that's not for the faint hearted.