Nowhere has benefited more from the 2012 Olympics legacy than Stratford, where the equivalent of a whole new town is being bolted on to the traditional East End working-class neighbourhood.
It started with the giant Westfield Stratford City shopping centre opening in October 2011. Together with the older retail centre and shops in the surrounding area, it’s now the largest single shopping centre in Europe.
The Games site has been transformed into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the largest park created in Europe in 150 years.
The Olympic stadium is home to West Ham United, Zaha Hadid’s London Aquatics Centre is open to the public, and the Olympic Velodrome, now Lee Valley VeloPark, was first in the world to offer track cycling, road racing, BMX and mountain biking in one place.
A staggering 20,000 new homes have been built or are in the pipeline locally. The Olympic athletes’ village is now East Village, a thriving community of almost entirely rental homes with new shops and cafés. There are 2,818 homes there now, with 2,000 to come.
Next to East Village, on the edge of the park, Chobham Manor is a joint venture between Taylor Wimpey and housing association L&Q with a new all-through school recently rated Ofsted “outstanding.” A total of 859 homes will be built, with the scheme complete in 2021.
On the western edge of the park, building starts soon on 1,520 homes at East Wick and Sweetwater between the River Lea and the Lee Navigation.
Housing association Places for People and builder Balfour Beatty also plan new schools and bridges over to artistically thriving Hackney Wick and Fish Island.
Stratford is home to Theatre Royal Stratford East, where in the Sixties and Seventies Joan Littlewood pioneered a new brand of community theatre.
There’s Stratford Circus Arts Centre, and now Stratford Waterfront, a new cultural and educational neighbourhood, is planned. It will be the new home of London College of Fashion, and of east London outposts for Sadler’s Wells, plus the V&A working with the Smithsonian Institution, all anchored by 650 homes in two tall towers.
International Quarter London is a new dual-site business centre being created near Stratford and Stratford International stations, and is set to rival the City, Canary Wharf and the Royal Docks’ ABP London, with 25,000 jobs promised.
In September 3,000 Transport for London staff move in, with 3,500 Financial Conduct Authority employees following next year.
The property scene
With so many new flats already built or in the pipeline in Stratford, it’s sometimes difficult to remember that this district also has roads and roads of traditional Victorian terrace houses and period conversions, as well as estates of social housing.
Stratford has a long-standing working-class community and only time will tell if the new flat dwellers will become long-term residents. A hopeful sign is two very good state all-through schools.
E15 is the Stratford postcode. E20 was created especially for the Olympic Games and includes the Olympic Stadium and East Village. Unusually, it is completely surrounded by the E15 postcode.
Penthouse flats in the new tower blocks.
Up and coming
Three-bedroom Victorian terrace houses in Stratford start at about £475,000 which for Zone 2 is a bargain.
Startford, east London’s major transport hub, will be on the Elizabeth line from Christmas next year.
There are trains from Stratford station to Liverpool St, and the Central line Tube takes commuters to Liverpool St and Oxford St. The Overground to Gospel Oak goes via Highbury & Islington and the Jubilee line and DLR go to Canary Wharf.
High-speed trains to Kent stop at Stratford International. The stations are in Zone 2. An annual travelcard to Zone 1 costs £1,296.
Newham council is Labour controlled. Band D council tax for 2017/2018 is £1,244.56.
Shops and restaurants
Westfield Stratford City has all the major high street brands and chain restaurants. Pass through the older Stratford Centre shopping centre and into the Broadway and suddenly you arrive in the old Stratford, which is more like a traditional London high street than the glitz and glamour of Westfield.
However, both are buzzing and locals obviously appreciate the market stalls that line the Stratford Centre.
High points are the traditional King Edward VII pub in Broadway and The Pie Crust in High Street, which has the appearance of a dingy café but serves Thai food. In West Ham Lane, the Sawmill Café gets rave reviews and oddly, customers can use the bitcoin to pay.
New shops and restaurants keep popping up in East Village including Mamalan for Beijing street food; children’s shop Olive Loves Alfie East; La Gelatiera for ice cream, and coffee shop Tina, We Salute You.
Overlooking the canal the former Olympic press and broadcast centre is now Here East, housing young companies, many of them digital, along with new cafés and restaurants.
There’s a branch of The Breakfast Club; bar Four Quarters mixes cocktails and pinball machines, like its Peckham parent; Gotto Trattoria for Italian dining, and Mason & Co for craft beer.
The wildflower planting and wetland area set the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park apart from other London parks. Even so, much more traditional West Ham Park, maintained by the City of London, remains popular.
Leisure and the arts
Theatre Royal Stratford East describes itself as the “People’s Theatre”. Stratford Circus next door is the local arts centre and in the same square there is a Picturehouse cinema. Discover in the High Street is a children’s story centre.
There is a Vue multiplex in Westfield and a film club at Roof East, the rooftop bar in a disused car park at the Stratford Centre.
Stratford has two all-through state schools rated “outstanding” by Ofsted; they are School 21 (co-ed, ages four to 18) in Pitchford Street and Chobham Academy (co-ed, ages three to 18) in Cheering Lane.
The following state primary schools are judged “good”: Carpenters in Friendship Way; Colegrave in Henniker Road; St Francis RC in Maryland Park; West Ham CofE in Portway; Maryland in Gurney Road; Park in Mathews Park Avenue; and Ranelagh in Corporation Street.
Mossbourne Riverside in East Bay Lane is a new primary school not yet inspected by Ofsted.
The comprehensive schools rated “good” are: Sarah Bonnell (girls, ages 11 to 16) in Deanery Road; East London Science School (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in The Clock Mill, Three Mill Lane; and Stratford School (co-ed, 11 to 16) in Upton Lane in Forest Gate.
There are two sixth-form colleges, both judged “good”: London Academy of Excellence (co-ed, 16 to 18) in Broadway House, High Street, and East London Arts and Music (co-ed, ages 16 to 18) in Maltings Close, Bromley-by-Bow.