The long-delayed refurbishment of a group of historic wharves is set to restore the prestige Wapping enjoyed in the Eighties as the most fashionable quarter of Docklands.
Before the rise of Canary Wharf, Wapping was the number one place in Docklands for riverside living. Nowhere else could match its charm and maritime authenticity, with the wonderful Georgian enclave of St Katharine Docks, and the cobbled high street with its famous inns and wharves, including Execution Dock where the Admiralty used to hang pirates and brigands.
When the money men moved to Canary Wharf in the Nineties, developers switched their attention to the Isle of Dogs, where sites were plentiful and profits fatter. Wapping was thrust into quiet isolation and, as time moved on, it was left behind, with little improvement to its restaurant and retail scene.
But that is all about to change. Long-awaited refurbishment of the historic wharves, and the recent upgrade of the East London line, are all part of the fightback for location supremacy. The local station was closed for more than a year during construction works and the reopening has caused a stir, with an impressive uplift in visitors to the area and homebuyers searching for property.
After decades of neglect, a Grade II-listed river-facing warehouse next to Wapping Tube station is being converted into 37 loft-style apartments and penthouses. The development at 136 Wapping Wall will have a grand hotel-like foyer plus a communal roof terrace and commercial space at street level. Prices start at £630,000. Call Galliard on 020 7620 1500.
Just along the road is Metropolitan Wharf, one of Wapping’s finest, which has been transformed into a “creative village” of loft apartments and designer offices, with a top-rated restaurant and organic food store to come.
The warehouse is a genuine classic with its magnificent, stripped-back fabric of exposed brick, cast-iron columns — dozens and dozens of them — and pine flooring.
The ground-floor entrance space is resplendent with a bespoke, capsule-like copper reception desk designed by Tom Dixon, and leads via a wall of glass to a vast, private riverside terrace, big enough to land a helicopter on.
Lofts with up to 4,000sq ft of space, 30ft-high ceilings, rafters and roof terraces will be available for rent early 2013. Call Pilcher Hershman on 020 7399 8600.
Wapping starts in the shadow of Tower Bridge and runs east to Shadwell Basin, where a Victorian pumping station has been turned into an art gallery and restaurant — it’s an amazing post-industrial space and cultural hub.
A new village
A much bigger hub will be Wapping Village — the new name for the famous 15-acre News International printworks, which Berkeley Group has acquired. This is set to become a fashionable new estate, with several hundred luxurious homes.