View Notting Hill Genesis Properties

Blackwall: How Republic is placing future talent at the heart of its growing campus

Trilogy Real Estate head of asset management Laurence Jones on the project’s present and future

Some of the extensive public space at Republic
Some of the extensive public space at Republic

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

“We’d always had the talent of the future at the forefront of our minds while the whole complex was being designed,” said Laurence Jones. “To see that finally coming to fruition is hugely gratifying.”

The head of asset management at Trilogy Real Estate is in a buoyant but humble mood as we chat about the present and the future.

His employer, in partnership with LaSalle Investment Management, is at the helm of Republic London, a project to regenerate four unloved and unlovely buildings around Clove Crescent near East India DLR, after acquiring them in 2015.

The project is entering its sixth year and appears in rude health with 2021 seeing 120,000sq ft let to organisations – around 30% of the Docklands market over the last 12 months.

While Trilogy’s strategy has been to deliberately target a diverse range of tenants, an emerging trend as a place ideal for education has emerged.

The University Of The West Of Scotland (UWS) and Anglia Ruskin University have both increased the size of their operations on-site, together occupying more than 125,000sq ft across the scheme’s Import and Export buildings.

York St John University is also relocating to Republic in a move to expand and consolidate its existing courses and apprenticeships while allowing it to launch seven new postgrad programmes and professional education courses at a 25,000sq ft facility.

Trilogy’s Laurence Jones – image Matt Grayson

“We’ve seen the emergence of higher education as a key sector and that really underpins the ethos of what we want to be – an innovation hub,” said Laurence.

“We want universities sat next to business, sat next to real, meaningful community engagement.

“When you have all those elements collaborating with each other, benefiting from that proximity, you get an environment that’s greater than the sum of its parts and huge opportunities.

“In terms of winning these expansions and clients, it’s been very helpful to work alongside the organisations already based here.

“People kick around this idea of landlords and tenants being partners but at Republic we really do mean that.

“We’re here from first viewings to agreeing terms and ensuring fit-outs are undertaken effectively because we want to work with operators and make sure they have the maximum chance of success.

“We’ve created a fantastic environment here but, crucially for the educators, it offers something more. You have business – the City and Canary Wharf – close by.

“The endgame for most of the graduates and postgraduates here is employment, so to be in a place that lends itself to getting direct work experience for their CVs is incredibly powerful.”

The Greenhouse at Republic
The Greenhouse at Republic – image Matt Grayson

Republic isn’t simply about providing big buildings for large organisations, however. Laurence and his team are determined to accommodate businesses ranging in size from a single entrepreneur to thousands.

He said: “In partnership with UWS and The Trampery we’ve created The Greenhouse which essentially provides incubator space.

“It has a real focus on offering a support network and a space for local businesses to make that leap from an idea at home to making it a reality.

“Equally, it gives a platform for some of the university students here to start trying out their entrepreneurial ideas.

“Once someone has a credible business with a track record, they’re going to want staff and their own front door.

“So, just before Christmas, we created five micro studios. They’re a very simple prospect – 500-to-1,000sq ft – an all inclusive rent for SMEs and startups to come and occupy space on a relatively flexible basis.

“It’s a short-form lease that a business can sign there and then on the day. One is already let to Your Parking Space and, as its business grows, we can accommodate the firm’s expansion.

“We see that journey for businesses as being absolutely crucial to our campus – that there’s an entry point for everyone.” 

Trilogy is also sharply focused on opening its campus up to the local community and visitors from further afield, with a range of places to eat, drink, exercise and even shop, framing its Wi-fi enabled water gardens. 

Open and trading are the likes of physiotherapy and fitness centre Myoset, exercise powerhouse F45, independent bakery and cafe Sweet Nothing Bakehouse, ice cream parlour Gelato A Casa and recently opened specialist whisky bar Black Rock.

“The local community is, for us, very important,” said Laurence. “We’ve always strived to ensure Republic isn’t just perceived as a business park.

“We created the public areas here because we want people to come and use them, to understand what’s here and I think our big objective for 2022 is to make certain there continues to be a huge amount of community engagement to de-mystify things.

“The early indications are the next 12 months will hopefully deliver some degree of normality and we’re super excited about people coming back.

“There will be experimentation for many organisations who will be asking what their working practices will look like and what their use of space will be.

“But the early indications are good and that’s fantastic news for the food and beverage businesses and the fitness companies we have here. There’s a lot of excitement.

The Export Building's full-height atrium
The Export Building’s full-height atrium

“We’re 94% let in the Import Building and 55% let in Export and we want to keep the leasing momentum going and finish the job that we started.”

Looking further forward, a planning application for the second phase of the project is currently under consideration.

Trilogy and LaSalle hope to build homes for rent, student accommodation, more office space and a data centre on-site.

“That will help us in our ambition to crack the night time economy here,” said Laurence.

“Part of that will come from having beds on campus for students and other residents, but equally by making sure there are more people coming here from the local area.

“We always knew we needed provision here outside traditional working hours because otherwise it could just be a 9am-5pm destination.

“We see this is as the next logical step, especially given the universities we have based here now.

“The student body at Republic is incredibly diverse – many are mature students and there are those from overseas.

“We are a centre of gravity for them and we want to be somewhere that they can call home.” 

Read more: How Peabody is transforming Thamesmead

Read e-editions of Wharf Life’s print edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Subscribe To Wharf Life

Blackwall: Black Rock brings its reinvention of the whisky bar to east London’s Republic

Co-founder Thomas Aske talks flavour profiles, fresh approaches and clear and present pricing

Black Rock co-founder Thomas Aske
Black Rock co-founder Thomas Aske – image Matt Grayson

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

At Black Rock there’s whisky in the cupboards, in the bottles, in postable pouches and even buried in a special glass channel in the enormous oaken table that dominates a raised portion of this recently opened bar.

If there were jars in the place, they too would doubtless be filled with the stuff.

Long in the arriving, thanks to the pandemic, Black Rock has finally opened the doors to a significant chunk of space at Republic in Blackwall as the regeneration of the business estate gathers pace. 

Visitors can expect red white and black murals recalling both shogunate Japan and some of the brands of spirit on sale, spare bamboo panels and that blockbuster table, fashioned from the trunk of a tree that was probably 250 years old.

Significantly more expansive than Black Rock’s first site in Christopher Street, it showcases the tipples it sells without deifying them and that’s key for co-founder Thomas Aske.

“When we designed the blueprint for Black Rock, we knew interest in whisky was on the up and up, but we recognised there are a lot of barriers to trying the drink – it can be considered quite elitist and quite exclusive,” he said. 

“We wanted to create something that would simplify the category for people and become the gateway to the spirit.

“It’s no longer this male-dominated drink consumed in a gentleman’s club environment with someone sitting in front of a log fire sipping a single malt from a cut crystal glass and smoking a cigar.

“That’s part of the history of it, of course, and the way it’s often been marketed and presented. But we look at whisky in terms of its flavour and its accessibility.

“We recognise there are lots and lots of people out there who want to taste these drinks – but it can be an intimidating category, so where do you start? 

“People will say they want to try whisky but if they don’t find one they enjoy that doesn’t mean much.

Whiskies at Black Rock are displayed by flavour
Whiskies at Black Rock are displayed by flavour – image Matt Grayson

“What my business partner Tristan Stephenson and I decided to do was flip it on its head and ask what the barriers were to understanding whisky – one is flavour, another is price and the third is presentation.

“First and foremost we want people to come into the bar and have a good time.

“The biggest part of that is the ambience – the lighting, the music and the atmosphere.

“We want to change the way whisky has been viewed for a hundred years. Our design is very minimalist with an almost Japanese feel to it.

“We play hip-hop because that’s what people want to listen to. 

“That’s not something that’s been explored previously so it can catch people off guard but you can sit there listening to Jay-Z while sipping on a 20-year-old single malt.

“Secondly we present all of our whiskies batched into six different flavour categories – balance, fragrance, sweet, fruit, spice and smoke.

“When we talk to guests, we ask them what type of food they enjoy – if someone may says they like smoked meats, salamis and smoked cheeses, we’ll guide them to the whiskies in the smoke section, where they’ll find maybe a dozen whiskies in the cabinet featuring that flavour.

“We also ask people if they’ve tried something they like before and we can introduce them to similar whiskies that they might also enjoy. 

“I think people genuinely like to discover things rather than be told what to have.

“If you’ve chosen a whisky and you really enjoy it, you become almost an ambassador for that liquid – you’ll recommend it to others.

“It’s also an experience that sticks in the memory – it’s more emotive if it’s something you’ve picked out.

“Thirdly we have price – whiskies come in four categories indicated by beads glued to the neck of each bottle. 

“If there’s one, it’s £7 for a 35ml dram, two then it’s £9 and three then it’s £11. If there’s a golden bead the drams start at £12 and the price will be on the bottom of the bottle.

“We do hold a small selection of higher priced whiskies but we want people to know exactly what things cost so they know what they are buying is in the budget they want to spend.

“The idea is you’ll know what the whisky you’re buying roughly tastes like and what you’ll be paying for it.

The main bar at Black Rock
The main bar at Black Rock – image Matt Grayson

“We want people to walk away going: ‘Hey, I found that whisky, it was perfect for what I wanted to pay and I’ve had a great time doing it’.”

Thomas and Tristan know what they’re doing.

Both have more than two decades working in the drinks industry, co-creating consultancy business Fluid Movement that ran bars such as Purl and the Whistling Shop and offering advice and services to the hospitality sector.

“Having spent nearly 10 years developing concepts, both for ourselves and for other people, we felt we wanted to focus on one thing in terms of bars and Black Rock was the one that worked best,” said Thomas.

“Our site at Moorgate worked on all fronts – financially, commercially and reputation-wise. We won top awards for it four years running and we really believe it has legs. 

“We opened one in Bristol in June 2019 and we had about six months trading before the pandemic hit, which wasn’t the best for us from a cashflow perspective. 

“We’d put everything into this so it meant we were in the hands of our landlords and sadly we’ve had to close Bristol.

“But we’ve had incredible support from our landlords at Republic and in Moorgate and we’ve just signed a five-site licence in China for Black Rock, with the first due to open in Shanghai in about six weeks.

“The key to business is persistence – seeing it through whatever happens. We’re incredibly excited to get Republic open. It’s been two years in the making and a lot has changed in the area since we first took the lease on. 

“For us that feels quite fortunate – the occupancy of the buildings is a lot higher, which means you’ll get a snowball effect for the businesses trading here as the estate becomes busier and busier.

“You also have an ever-increasing number of residential properties in and around this area and the people living in them want a variety of places to go and enjoy themselves rather than having to travel all the way into central London.

“This whole area, with Canary Wharf as well, is evolving and will become an even greater hive of activity.”

Black Rock includes a giant wooden table
Black Rock includes a giant wooden table – image Matt Grayson

Thomas and his business partner will be busy themselves, having recently won investment for one of their other businesses from three investors on BBC show Dragon’s Den – a tasting subscription service called Whisky Me.

The club sends out monthly dram pouches of spirit to its members packaged to fit through letterboxes.

The idea is subscribers get a regular flow of new drinks to try while the brands get to grace the mouths of a group of engaged consumers who will, presumably, purchase bottles should they enjoy the contents of the recyclable, postable containers.  

As for the newly opened bar, it’s not just about whisky. Black Rock also offers wine and beers on tap for those who prefer to sip something different with their hip-hop.

Then there’s the cocktail in the table, dispensed from a little brass tap hidden under its LED-lit lip and currently featuring Johnnie Walker Black.

Food is also in the pipeline – customers can expect slow-roasted pork with an Americana flavour to sit alongside the drinks.

Like the whisky, this is a place to try on for size, then investigate further if the fit is right.

Read more: Sharkbait ‘N’ Swim seafood restaurant opens its doors in Deptford

Read e-editions of Wharf Life’s print edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Subscribe To Wharf Life