Lehman bank collapsed a year ago, and Canary Wharf held its breath. Would the twinkling lights of the skyscrapers of success, built on the east London dockland go out?
© Nick Cunard
A year on, what we saw was a fairly brief power cut. Canary Wharf has rebounded, helped last week by Mayor Boris Johnson’s approval for Columbus Tower, which will be the capital’s tallest building.
'The most sought-after homes are a 10-minute walk from the dealing rooms'
Today, new apartments coming up for completion are 20 per cent cheaper than the price developers sold them for “off-plan” at the peak of the boom in spring 2007.
But this price correction, together with renewed banking- sector confidence, has triggered a fresh wave of buying. Crossrail is on the horizon and those used to gambling on the market know this is a good bet.
Transport adds value
Two decades after Canary Wharf arrived on the map as a business district the area is finally maturing into an attractive residential neighbourhood, with shops, a round-the-clock social scene and, above all, improving transport links.
This will have the effect of pushing up prices, with the Jubilee line providing quick connections to the West End and South Bank and nearby Stratford offering a Eurostar terminal. And on the horizon is Crossrail, the east-west train route that will give direct 44-minute services to Heathrow.
The new Crossrail station at Canary Wharf, due to open in 2017, will become a key transport hub for the eastward expansion of London into the Thames Gateway, boosting employment along the way.
About 90,000 people work at Canary Wharf and, despite bonus disputes, this niche pocket of E14 is London’s highest-paying postcode, with an average male salary in excess of £100,000.
Last month, British Airways commenced business-class flights between London City Airport, just around the river bend from Canary Wharf, and New York.
The 2012 Olympics will shine an international spotlight on the area, and still to come are the “legacy” benefits of better infrastructure and facilities.
The halo effect
The Isle of Dogs has two property markets - Canary Wharf and the rest. Canary Wharf is actually a 97-acre business estate with its own “ring of steel” (private security cordon), 14 million square foot of office and retail space, including four shopping malls and numerous bars and restaurants.
There are relatively few homes within this distinct commercial quarter but hundreds inside the “halo”, that is within a 10-minute walk of the dealing rooms. This extended zone is the most sought-after, boasting walk-to-work convenience and the best of the older and new apartment schemes.
It is there that the biggest shake-up in the Docklands property market has taken place. Prices raced ahead during 2005-2007 but following the credit crunch they were forced down by up to 50 per cent. This coincided with a flood of new-build apartments arriving on the market.
At Millennium Quarter, a new district by South Quay that borders the Canary Wharf estate, more than 5,000 new homes have been, or are in the process of being constructed.
Now buyers are returning. “Over the past six weeks we have sold about 60 apartments at one development (Ability Place) with little or no advertising, just word of mouth,” says Tim Wright of King Sturge. In the past, new-build flats came with a price premium, yet today’s values are roughly equivalent to second-hand flats in 2007.
“About 80 per cent of buyers are owner-occupiers, purchasing for themselves or their children,” adds Wright. Values at Ability Place are now between £510 and £550 a square foot. Studios cost from £190,000, and one-bedroom flats from £260,000. For more information, call 020 7715 9723.
Madley Property, which specialises in riverside apartment schemes, is marketing resale apartments. For example, a luxury one-bedroom 504sq ft apartment on the 12th floor of Pan Peninsula can be picked up for £320,000.
The best flats at Canary Riverside, a popular 10-year-old scheme on the bend of the river and next door to the swanky Four Seasons Hotel, are close to £1,000 a square foot. Expect to pay up to £400,000 for a one-bedroom flat; £350,000 to £600,000 for a two-bedroom and £500,000 to £750,000 for a three-bedroom. Call 020 7378 0644.
Penthouse apartments can cost more than £1 million. A three-bedroom, 3,000sq ft split-level penthouse at West India Quay costs £3.4 million. Call Savills on 020 7531 2500.
Most homes are apartments owned by singles and couples many of whom work at Canary Wharf or in the City. But, increasingly, families are putting down roots in Docklands. Schooling options are limited but it is a relatively safe environment and the waterfront amenities make it a good place for older children. Houses are scarce and tend to hold their value well.
What's on offer
* The Landmark consists of two skyscrapers at Marsh Wall with a total of 644 new homes. Prices are from £297,000 to £620,000. Call Young London on 020 7593 3300.
* Canary Quarter is being built on the site of an Eighties business estate, an example of how the development scene has changed. The first phase of 250 homes was sold off-plan but developer Galliard Homes expects some buyers will fail to complete and these flats will be sold on. Planning consent has been given for a second phase of 300 homes. Call 020 7620 1500.
* Former London Arena at Crossharbour is being redeveloped into a 972-home complex. Dubbed Baltimore Wharf, it will include a 45-storey twisting tower. Prices have not yet been released; register interest with developer Ballymore on 0800 092 7070.
* Prices at The Forge reflect the slightly off-pitch location on Westferry Road. Here, 194 flats surround a listed Victorian forge. Prices start from £270,000. Call 020 7531 2510.
A hidden gem in E14
When he first saw the property eight years ago, entrepreneur David Bishop (pictured above) knew it was special: a freehold house in a historic street with river frontage and spectacular views of Canary Wharf and the O2 arena. He decided to buy the property there and then.
At the time, his daughter was a student at King’s College London and needed somewhere to live, while the family wanted a London base to go with their country estate in Essex and marina home in Hampshire. “The house had instant wow factor,” explains Mr Bishop, who made a fortune in the 1990s after selling his packaging and distribution business.
Tucked away in a cobbled lane called Coldharbour, the house is part of a Georgian terrace where Lord Nelson once lived. It is a Sixties rebuild on the site of a Georgian customs and excise office and has recently been modernised to provide four bedrooms, two receptions and conservatory style roof terrace plus private parking.
Surrounded by Canary Wharf’s shiny steel-and-glass towers and modern apartment blocks, the house is a rare find indeed. “We’ve had fantastic times there but we have decided to sell,” says Mr Bishop. The house is for sale at £1.5 million. Call Cluttons on 020 7488 4858.