Stratford City will be the new metropolitan centre of east London, with showpiece schemes trumpeted as "a new era in town planning". These schemes will be landscaped to offer residents an attractive environment — rather than a soulless precinct — with shopping that will make journeys to the West End a distant memory.
Thousands of apartment homes are being built at large and spacious mixed use developments that will transform these old urban districts.
Stratford City, next to the Olympic Park and scheduled to open before Christmas next year, will be Europe's biggest new retail destination — and not one full of unimaginative high street chain stores, but providing a chance for privately owned creatives to sell high-quality, crafted merchandise, too. For those without the income for shops there will be street markets with stalls around cafés and restaurants.
Stratford City will rise up on 184 acres and 13.5 million sq ft of space, with more than 300 shops, 50 places to eat and, eventually, 4,300 homes. Most of the retail space has been pre-let (Waitrose is one of several leading retailers making its debut in E15).
Old urban districts will be transformed to offer residents and shoppers an attractive environment, not a soulless precinct
Developer Westfield commissioned retail guru Mary Portas to suggest ways of injecting vitality and personality into the environment as a whole. Tapping into east London's creative vibe, she set up a "cultural committee", including artist Tracey Emin and designer Tom Dixon, to come up with sculptures, seating and lighting for the public areas — even uniforms for the concierge and security staff.
Among the eco-friendly architectural innovations are paving slabs that store energy generated by pedestrians.
Shoreditch-based Emin, who took a helicopter ride over the site to help her understand its vast scale, said: "Wherever artists go, commerce follows. This is a meeting point and it will have a huge impact in east London."
The main shopping boulevard — dubbed a "24-hour lifestyle street" — will be the primary route into the Olympic Park and the Athletes' Village, where the first 2,800 homes (town houses as well as apartments) are under way.
About 50 per cent of these homes will be released for private sale next summer, with occupation a few months after the Olympics because the "dormitory-style" interiors have to be converted. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 020 3288 6290. For affordable housing, including shared ownership, visit triathlonhomes.com.
A blueprint for the future
Westfield says Stratford City is a blueprint for future retail-residential developments, with streets and squares and the feeling that you are in a town rather than under one big roof.
Developer Manhattan Loft Corporation has unveiled plans for a sleek new skyscraper incorporating 253 apartments and a hotel above one of the retail buildings at the site. This is likely to raise the bar in terms of glamour and price.
Several new apartment blocks have been built on the edges of Stratford City, though just as many have been mothballed because of the credit crunch. Prices in the area start at about £185,000, down 20 per cent from the peak. Currently, little on the market costs more than £750,000.
At Lett Road, developer Thornsett Group has built 64 flats — the only new scheme in Stratford that is entirely private (with no social housing). Homes include duplex three-bedroom penthouses with views over the Olympic Park. And there is a communal roof terrace. Prices from £235,000 to £795,000. Call Currells on 020 7226 4200.