Crossrail hotspot Canary Wharf continues to rise:thousands of new sky-high homes take London's 'mini Manhattan' to new heights

Almost a dozen designer skyscrapers already vie for first place in Canary Wharf's architectural beauty parade. With Crossrail on its way and the workforce set to double, thousands more new homes are being built at this emerging residential hotspot.

A new London district was born 30 years ago. Canary Wharf rose in the east from the ashes of dockland to rival the City as a financial centre — named for the Canary Islands, from where fruit used to be landed on the quays.

One Canada Square rose as a symbol of the regeneration of Docklands and was Britain’s tallest building at the time. Canary Wharf has come a long way since. The gleaming, glassy, mini Manhattan of today is a workplace for more than 110,000 people, with 16 million square feet of office and retail space, and apartment blocks that compete for glamour. 

The average salary is £100,000 and the area even has its “own” airport in the shape of London City, less than three miles away. With its wide open vistas of tidal Thames, and a network of inland canal basins for narrowboat homes, it is establishing a seven-day life for its residents, who no longer rush to leave for weekends in “real” places.

More big firms are skipping here from the Square Mile, including Deutsche Bank, which is on its way with 4,000 staff. With Crossrail coming in 2018 and the capital’s new Mayor Sadiq Khan clearing the way for London City airport expansion, the local workforce is expected to double by 2025. Meanwhile Canary Wharf is out to prove it’s also a first-rate place to live.

Family homes with a sense of community

It has taken a generation to banish the thought that Docklands is the back of beyond. Now it holds more than 100 art events a year, while up to a dozen major designer residential buildings vie for first place in an architectural beauty parade.

They include One Park Drive, a spectacular cylindrical skyscraper designed by Tate Modern architect Herzog & de Meuron, with 483 homes.

While Canary Wharf’s first-generation housing was crash pads in gated schemes for bankers and corporate lawyers, or boxy flats for the army of clerical and IT staff, the new developments are more family-friendly. 

From £365,000: flats at London City Island, Canning Town, where English National Ballet is moving to a new HQ

The aim is to bring a sense of neighbourhood and community through thoughtful architecture, parks, public spaces, amenities and even schools, as at Millharbour Village, a new 1,500-home high-rise quarter that includes a “sky” nursery and playgrounds on the rooftops. Homes in the current phase, Harbour Central, start at £705,000. Call Galliard (020 7620 1500).

Luxury apartments to entice movers and shakers

Developers are also offering more glamour and luxury to entice movers and shakers from other parts of London. Mount Anvil has linked up with Aston Martin Racing to promote Dollar Bay, a 31-storey tower where a V8 Vantage GTE Challenger car has been lifted by crane to the roof. Prices from £675,000, rising to £3.5 million for a four-floor penthouse. Call 0845 0779069.

Canary Wharf is viewed by many as an alternative London that has more in common with downtown Chicago or Singapore than with Kensington or St John’s Wood, but without doubt it is maturing into a lively district. More than 800,000 people a week use its 300 shops, bars and eateries, five retail malls, gyms and concert venues.

With 13-minute trains to Bond Street, Crossrail will make Canary Wharf feel far less detached from central London, and developers claim property values will eventually match the City and riverside districts such as Bankside and Battersea, currently at least 30 per cent more expensive.

Canary Wharf is a 128-acre private estate within the Isle of Dogs, with its own “ring of steel” security cordon. But the halo of development extends out to the area formed by that great U-bend in the Thames. Most new homes are being sold off-plan, with completions due from next year. Normally you have to put down a 10 per cent deposit and match it a year later, with the balance payable when you move in.

The Madison is the latest unveiling. This sleek skyscraper on Marsh Wall has flats with recessed balconies, and a mid-level Highline Club for residents, with spa, gym, bar, cinema room, lounge and business suite. A new public garden is being created. Prices from £573,000. Call JLL on 020 3553 6811.

Dollar Bay: a 31-storey tower where a V8 Vantage GTE Challenger has been lifted by crane to the roof

Gardens and exotic landscaping are the stand-out feature of Wardian London, twin towers with 792 homes. Soaring glass walls in the communal areas enclose trees, plants and flowers — a natural world inside a glass, steel and bronze structure.

There’s an open-air swimming pool and sky gardens, while the flats have big, set-back terraces protected from the elements. Prices from £499,000. Call 0800 404 8855. 


South Quay Plaza: the iconic stepped tower structure, designed by Foster + Partners, will be built at a 45 degree rotation to maximise views of the river. Prices from £695,000. 

Nearby South Quay Plaza has 888 homes, many in a 68-storey skyscraper built at a 45-degree rotation to ensure a dual aspect. Designed by Foster & Partners, the scheme brings a new dockside promenade and park, plus shops, bars and restaurants. Floor-to-ceiling glazing maximises views. From £695,000. Call Berkeley Homes on 020 3675 4400.

Where to look for value

Canning Town, one stop further on the Jubilee line, is brimming with new projects and becoming a Canary Wharf satellite, attracting high-profile cultural organisations as well home buyers.

London City Island is a 1,700-home neighbourhood being built in a loop of the River Lea as it joins the Thames, opposite the O2. It’s on its way to becoming a buzzing waterside quarter, with vibrant-coloured apartment blocks, boutiques, cafés and restaurants, an arts club and lush gardens.

English National Ballet is moving from Kensington to a new HQ at the development. Its vast, see-through rehearsal studios will allow passers-by to watch dancers and the company’s symphony orchestra. London Film School has also announced it will relocate to the site.Surrounded by roaring highways, it could hardly be a more urban location. A striking “cat’s cradle” iron bridge linking City Island to Canning Town Tube and bus station is a vital piece of new infrastructure. Prices from £365,000. Call CBRE on 020 7519 5900.

Manhattan Plaza lies just beyond the Canary Wharf estate and is cheaper. Two-bedroom flats cost from £690,000 and townhouses from £850,000. Call Telford Homes on 020 3538 0719.

You pay a premium for buying a new home, especially one with fancy amenities and higher service charges. So it’s worth looking at resale homes. Typically, homes within a 10-minute walk of the Canary Wharf office complex are about 20 per cent pricier than those elsewhere on the Isle of Dogs. 

Royal Docks, a vast waterfront district around the river bend from Canary Wharf, is also worth exploring. Hoola London has 360 flats in two rippling glass-clad towers. From £440,000. Call 020 7531 2500.

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