The most breathtaking views of Canary Wharf are from the summit of Greenwich Park, which offers a sweeping panorama of the gleaming glass-and-steel skyscrapers, the bending river and Sir Christopher Wren's majestic Old Royal Naval College.
- © Getty images
- © Barry Phillips
For many years, a pedestrian tunnel was the only quick route between Greenwich and the Isle of Dogs. Opened in 1902, the tunnel replaced an unreliable ferry service and allowed dockers living south of the river to reach the shipyards.
Though a convenient enough stroll under the Thames, it was hardly a modern commuter link. Only when the DLR arrived in the Nineties, followed by the Jubilee line extension, did bankers land in the area, snapping up elegant Georgian houses bordering the park or settling in nearby Regency Blackheath.
For a bonus-wielding master of the universe employed at Canary Wharf, this is a fine place to live - cheaper, too, than equivalent inner suburbs such as Highgate in the north or Richmond in the west (east London has no direct comparison). Yet the area offers homes of all shapes and sizes, ages and prices - from swanky apartments to cobbled mews cottages, from Victorian terraces to delightful modern-design townhouses.
For those who want to be part of a showpiece community, there is Greenwich Peninsula, an industrial wasteland that is being transformed into a shiny residential and business district, dominated by the hugely successful O2 Arena (formerly the Millennium Dome).
Shipshape for the Olympics
Maritime Greenwich has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1997 (because it is the "finest and most dramatically-sited architectural and landscape assembly in the British Isles") and will loom large in the 2012 Olympics - the park is to be used for the equestrian events.
Just as the global spotlight of the Millennium celebrations 10 years ago spurred developers to build in Greenwich, the looming Olympics is triggering fresh construction activity. Several apartment complexes are going up around the edges of the gracious old naval town, while one-off houses - ideal for young professional couples with a toddler or two - are tucked away in conservation pockets.
Poor man's Hampstead?
Blackheath is the plateau at the top of Shooters Hill. Backing on to Greenwich Park, it is sometimes referred to as the "poor man's Hampstead", but nonetheless considers itself a cut above. It has a village centre and private roads with detached houses in big plots. Prices start at about £190,000 for a one-bedroom conversion, and from about £400,000 for a plain three-bedroom family house. Grander period houses cost from about £1.3 million and can rise to over £5 million.
A new pair of semis in Church Terrace, a wide, tree-lined road of Victorian villas close to Blackheath village, are a fresh addition to the area. The low-rise building has a crisp, sculptural form, with a vibrant, blue-green, pre-patinated copper-and-white rendered façade (right).
The front door opens to reveal an open-plan, light-filled space, with a curvy bespoke kitchen and a maple, glass and stainless steel staircase below a two metre-wide roof light. Three wide steps lead to a sitting area where large glazed doors extend the room into an intimate patio garden. On the upper floor are two bedrooms, a bathroom and laundry room. Space constraints required the introduction of a cantilevered balcony at first-floor level.
The houses, each about 1,100sq ft and costing £650,000, sit discreetly behind a new wall of recycled London stock bricks. Remote-controlled gates open onto a forecourt parking area. Call Winkworth on 020 8852 0999.
This new pair of homes in Church Terrace have been executed with panache by local resident and furniture designer Michael Kemp, who has lived in the area since he was a student at Goldsmiths university in the Seventies. The land was previously home to four lock-up garages and Michael bought it without planning permission.
It is his third such project (all in the same neighbourhood), coming after a renovation of a builder's yard and a new-build house on a garden plot where he now lives. The latter is rather special, too, a hidden-from-view circular structure topped with a planted roof and with all windows facing inwards around a central courtyard.
Building the Church Terrace houses was "like creating a big piece of furniture, using the same aesthetic judgments and attention to detail - that's the element I love", says Michael, 62. "It's been very satisfying. Though property development is risky, it's a nice way to make some money."
He did all the design work himself, secured planning consent and then employed an architect to get the project through building control - "which can be a nightmare for individuals not familiar with the system".
The growth of Greenwich
Greenwich Creekside is the first residential phase (more than 240 private flats) of a new "creative quarter" being built on derelict land around the highly rated Laban Dance Centre. Plans include a jazz venue, galleries and canalside bars and restaurants. Modern, glass architecture by Squire and Partners includes penthouse flats with river views. Prices from £245,000 for one-bedroom flats. Call Telford Homes on 01992 809800.
New Capital Quay (above) occupies a prominent bend of the river at the mouth of Deptford Creek. Now under construction, the development will have 636 flats across 11 blocks, one a "peninsula building" rising to 15 storeys. Call Galliard Homes on 020 7620 1500.
Theatro, on Creek Road, is a scheme by Union Developments, with apartments priced from £280,000. Call Winkworth on 020 8852 0999.
City Peninsula is part of the £5 billion regeneration zone around the O2 Arena. Bellway is building 229 homes due for completion in spring 2011. Prices from £249,000. Call 020 8853 2585.
Seren Park (right) consists of 90 flats built on an elevated yet secluded plot alongside Maze Hill train station. Prices start at £215,000. Call 0800 085 1577.