FOR more than half a century, Grosvenor Square in central London has been home to the American diplomatic mission.

Now final preparations are under way as staff prepare to relocate across the River Thames for when the new US embassy building opens for business on January 16.

Construction of the distinctive 12-storey, cube-shaped building, located between Vauxhall and Battersea in south-west London, is estimated to have cost approximately one billion US dollars.

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It was funded entirely from sale of US government property in London, the embassy said, and designed by American architects KieranTimberlake.

The crystalline structure, which won the 2013 New London Architecture Award, was designed to reflect the ideals of American democracy - transparency, openness and equality.

Panoramic views of the Thames can be enjoyed through gold-starred floor-to-ceiling windows, while a glimpse of Westminster provides a reassuring nod that the capital's political heart is just a stone's throw away.

Inside, gardens representing different American states wind around the stairs linking each floor, while a semi-circular pond, not dissimilar to a moat, fronts the building.

The embassy expects to welcome 1,000 visitors a day and will employ 800 staff at the building,

Its location within the Nine Elms development places it within a 561-acre regeneration project set to transform one of the South Bank's last remaining industrial stretches.

It includes an extension of London Underground's Northern Line, with two new stations at Battersea and Nine Elms due to open in 2020.

Developers hope the area will become a thriving business hub, with Penguin Random House UK and Apple set to open offices south of the river, while the Royal College of Arts has submitted a planning application for a £50 million state-of-the-art building.

They hope the project will bring to the area thousands of new homes, 25,000 new jobs, green spaces and visitor attractions.

Currently, much of the area resembles a large construction site, with the skyline changing constantly as the developments progress.

Speaking in December, US Ambassador Woody Johnson said the new embassy was a symbol of the growing UK-US special relationship, while reminiscing fondly over the Grade II-listed London Chancery Building that the team were leaving.

He added: "We are looking forward to welcoming the president when he comes over here. I think he will be very impressed with this building and the people who occupy it."