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Canary Wharf: How Unifi.id delivers tech that helps firms cut carbon in their buildings

Level39-based company’s real-time occupancy data designed to help reduce energy wastage

Unifi.id CEO and founder Paul Sheedy

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“You cannot manage what you can’t measure,” said Paul Sheedy, the CEO and founder of Unifi.id.

“The one thing we focus on is giving clients the right measurement tools so that they can manage their buildings better.”

In the mouth of a lesser individual, technology designed to track building occupancy in real time and adjust systems such as lighting, heating and air conditioning accordingly might seem a little dry.

But Paul positively vibrates with passion when it comes to his specialist subject.

On the one hand there’s the engaging Irish lilt of a Dubliner and a glint in the eye.

On the other there’s a burning frustration and exasperation that more isn’t being done to tackle climate change and humanity’s continued overuse of resources.

He’s disarming, funny and deadly serious.

“We talk a lot about smart buildings,” he said, waving a hand to indicate the London skyline stretching out to the City and beyond as we gaze out of the 39th floor of One Canada Square in Canary Wharf.

“But 96% of buildings around the world are not smart.

“What we’re trying to do is deliver the things companies need to actually make them smarter.

“In most buildings, energy wastage is about 30% – just think of that in the wider context of cutting emissions and gas and electricity prices rising so quickly.

“My focus is all about using less energy and so lowering organisations’ carbon footprint very, very rapidly.”

Unifi.id's long range RFID cards are logged by its detectors
Unifi.id’s long range RFID cards are logged by its detectors

Based at Canary Wharf’s tech community Level39, Unifi.id has developed technology embedded in entry and exit swipe cards that allow its detectors to log employees as they pass key points in a building. 

Paul is quick to stress this isn’t about tracking the exact movements of individuals as they go about their day, but rather knowing who is in what general area at any given time and then using that data in a number of different ways.

“The lingering effect of the lockdowns is a good example,” he said. “Almost all buildings are being run as they were pre-Covid.

“Companies have all their cleaning staff, their restaurant staff and security staff in as though the occupancy was the same.

“But some buildings still have only around 2% of staff in on a Friday.

“That those buildings are being run in the same way is ridiculous.

“Before Covid, the way buildings were occupied was consistent, but now there’s not a single one that we run that has any consistency.

“Occupancy is so sporadic and it can be extreme on Mondays and Fridays.

“It’s criminal that all the lights are on, the air conditioning is cooling every floor, with only a fraction of the staff in.

“That’s why our technology can have an impact – the more we monitor, the better our predictive analysis gets. For example, we can see the effect of external factors. 

“We see that about 7%-12% fewer people come to the office on a Thursday if it’s raining.

“In contrast, rain on a Tuesday hardly affects anything and we think there’s a psychological reason for that because if you’ve been working from home on Friday and Monday, by Tuesday you’ll be feeling a need to return to the office despite the weather.

“On a Thursday, you might just think it doesn’t matter so much, especially if you’re working at home or off on the Friday.

“Then you have other factors such as train strikes, which can affect occupancy over an entire week.

“Occupancy detection also allows building owners working with us to tell the buildings in advance so they can adapt – keeping floors closed and turning down the air con, for example. 

“What we’re really trying to say to organisations is that they can adapt to this new way of working, but there will be consequences, so they may need to use hot-desking because certain areas won’t be open.”

The key for Unifi.id is giving organisations this ability to track change so they can adapt what their buildings are doing in real time, rather than simply guessing what’s happening.

Paul says energy is wasted in the vast majority of buildings
Paul says energy is wasted in the vast majority of buildings

“We think there will be a change,” said Paul.

“People working from home, paying for all the lighting and heating, will recognise that it would be cheaper for them to go to work, so it will get busier later in the year.

“In many sectors where there is flexibility, we already know what’s happening.

“Staff are seeing that it’s the right time to go back to work, socialise and interact with other people again.”

Greater numbers back in buildings makes Unifi.id’s technology even more relevant, given its obvious safety benefits.

Should a building catch fire, for example, knowing exactly how many people are in it and where they are is potentially life-saving information for the emergency services.

“This is something I’m particularly passionate about, because back in Dublin when I was a child, we had 48 of our neighbours die in a dance hall fire – they couldn’t get out of the building,” said Paul.

“What we want to do for the London Fire Brigade and for the tenants of buildings is to bring in a new policy where, in real time, if something does go wrong, the emergency services and building managers know the occupancy of the building.

“That means they can monitor the evacuation of the building and could save firefighters’ lives if they then don’t need to go in.

“Also we look at how many people in a building have mobility issues and where they are, so efforts can focus on getting them out safely.

“People don’t always do sensible things when it comes to an evacuation. 

“We have mechanisms in place where, if we can see people heading the wrong way, a completely automated communication is sent to their mobile to tell them where to go and what to do to get to the ground floor, even if that’s to avoid a certain evacuation route.”

Paul created Unifi.id following the success of Symphony Retail AI, a company he co-founded that analyses loyalty card transaction data to better understand the behaviour of shoppers.

Originally conceived to create beacon technology – the idea of sending messages from companies to people’s phones based on their location and profile – his firm switched its focus to property when it eventually became clear in the advertising world that this was a non-starter.

“I hate to admit failure, but I will,” said Paul, who has been based at Level39 since it launched as a tech accelerator hub in 2013.

“The world was convinced that beacon technology was going to be the next big thing in advertising, but it never happened.

“No retailer anywhere in the world ever made it work to detect the right customer at the right time to send them the right offer.

“In reality it didn’t work because it didn’t think about the individual and what they would have to do. 

“So now we focus on making technology that isn’t dependent on people doing certain things to make it work – the more you do that, the better your product is going to be.

“It’s more difficult for the company, but hey, I wouldn’t get out of bed if I didn’t know it was going to be a challenging day ahead of me.

“I enjoy squeezing the grey matter and the brains of brilliant people I work with to find what piece of physics we can break, bend or enhance.

“So we transformed into a proptech company, delivering simple essential data to those managing buildings so they can make them more efficient and better for the environment.

“Over the past two years, it’s not been a great time to be working in occupancy technology, so a lot of what we did in 2020 was to go back to our clients and say: ‘This will end, tell us what we could do to be even better after Covid’. 

“With their responses, my tech team sat down and we just worked relentlessly on building new solutions, working out what the next steps would be.

“We saw that the market was moving from card-based access control to apps.

“But we know this doesn’t make sense because people don’t tap in and out so much using an app, whereas the RFID technology in our cards  means we automatically detect people walking into or out of a building or past our detection points.

“We realised that the way to get around this was to develop a facial recognition system. 

“We only hold the vectors of a face in the camera, and only when an employee of the company walks in or out of the building – this would be detected and put in the database of who is in the building.

“Then we’d mesh that with 3D counting cameras – with these, we don’t know who you are, but we do know how many people pass them, so in reality we have absolute accuracy on the usage of each floor of a building.

“This means that if we do have an evacuation, for example, we know the numbers of people on each floor and we can detect them as they enter each stairway, so we can see the flow and quickly identify where there might be blockages or problems and allow the fire brigade to get to them.

“We really believe that this will become a global system, which will go into major cities around the world, like Dubai and New York.

Paul is clear that Unifi.id’s technology cannot be used to monitor the exact position of employees – this isn’t about tracking who’s at which desk and how many trips they take to the toilet in a day.

He said this would not only be an invasion of privacy on an ethical level, but also that such data would not be very useful.

“We have been careful with every client that we will never be a Big Brother solution – we’re only detecting people as employees or visitors who are allowed access to a particular floor of a building,” he said.

“Secondly, we will never put our technology into places like toilets or cigarette-smoking areas. If an employer wants to do that, they will be doing it without our technology. That’s not what this is about.

“One of my key points is that it should be actionable data, which would deliver the best solution, not just collecting data for the sake of it.

“The world isn’t taking climate change seriously enough.

“We’re failing on every single metric and we have to realise this isn’t about governments – its about organisations and individuals making the right choices on every single thing they do. We have to contain energy with every single device we use. 

“What the UK does have is an amazing ecosystem of accelerators for technology companies and a lot of them are now focused on proptech. 

“We’re now working in collaboration with a lot of those companies and, because we’re working with them, this country is now at the forefront of this sector going forward. 

“We work with people on LED lighting and automated building management systems and by using our data, businesses can rapidly cut energy wastage now.”

Read more: How Ultimate Performance helps its clients achieve their goals

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Property: Last chance to buy at Upper Riverside on Greenwich Peninsula

Developer Knight Dragon eyes acceleration of delivery as deal signed with contractor Mace

Upper Riverside is almost sold out at Upper Riverside
Upper Riverside is almost sold out at Upper Riverside

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This moment represents something of a tipping point in the regeneration of Greenwich Peninsula.

There are still 20-odd apartments left in the Upper Riverside phase of Knight Dragon’s mammoth project, so for buyers this is a last chance to get in on one of the angular blocks set along the Thames. 

“That’s really been our focus for the last four years, with just over 1,000 properties and it’s very much an established community now,” said Kerri Sibson, chief operating officer at the developer.

“We launched the last building – No. 5 – just as we went into the first bout of Covid, so things stalled for a little while and then subsequently picked up.

“We have a few one-bed and two-bed homes available, so this is a last chance to buy.

“There’s a really strong sense of community across the five buildings at Upper Riverside, which is really lovely and, of course, that’s what you hope for – people who will occupy the space and make it what they want it to be.”

Homes at No. 5 Upper Riverside start at £487,500 with residents’ facilities including access to a co-working space, three gyms, multiple roof terraces and a 15th floor swimming pool.

For those who’d rather rent, No. 4 Upper Riverside offers studio, one, two and three-bedroom homes to let with starting prices ranging from £1,500pcm to £3,000pcm, a selection of contract options and the option to move in without a deposit.

“The rental operation has had a full year now and the rental market is booming, so that has performed really well for us and we’ve been really pleased,” said Kerri.

“Having that option is part of what we talk about all the time for the Peninsula, which is that you need diversity of product to keep your audience as wide as possible.

“If you have just one type of property, it quickly becomes a not very interesting place to be. Rental gives us a different clientele and it definitely feeds into our sales business.

“We haven’t been able to do it yet, but we might be on the cusp of seeing if we could do ‘Try before you buy’.

“I’d like the idea that we could have a rental offer which ultimately means that the money you’re spending on rent becomes a deposit and – although it sends our finance department into palpitations – it would be wonderful if we could achieve that.

“On the sales side, having Lower Riverside has always been the perfect counterpoint in terms of accessibility so we’re not just offering one price point.”

Knight Dragon COO Kerri Sibson
Knight Dragon COO Kerri Sibson

Knight Dragon’s approach to making sure the area it is creating appeals to buyers somewhat sets it apart.

The company has invested significantly in public space as well as an ongoing programme of art exhibitions and events, intended to attract visitors to the area and entertain the now circa 5,000 residents.

That includes the creation of The Tide – an elevated park complete with sculptures including a work by Damian Hirst.

Knight Dragon has also worked to help establish local businesses to serve those passing through, studying and living on the Peninsula, opening a diverse collection of commercial buildings at Design District in 2021.

“That’s been a great success for us,” said Kerri. “It was enormously stressful for all parties getting it launched post-Covid.

“We had businesses really excited and ready to move in and we were behind because everything had been closed for many months, but when it arrived it exceeded all out expectations.

“When we launched, we had a journalist from the BBC asking whether we were worried about people not returning to work, not coming into the office – but that’s hasn’t been our experience.

“We have such a great mix of tenants in the creative industries and they were just really desperate to get in, to collaborate and to feed off each other.

“I’ve been working on this project since Knight Dragon got involved and I’ve found that if you engage with the creative industries early on in any process, the product you come out with is so much more interesting and challenging than if you stick to a very traditional property route.

“You can end up with a very homogenised product with ‘Do Not Stand On The Grass’ signs. We didn’t want that here.”

Knight Dragon has created The Tide leading down to the Thames
Knight Dragon has created The Tide leading down to the Thames

With a total of nearly 17,500 homes in the pipeline, both residents and visitors can expect to see a ramping up of activity, as Knight Dragon prepares to announce the next phases of its project later in the year.

“We’re probably around the 30% mark in terms of completion, so there’s still an awful lot more to do,” said Kerri.

“We’ve just announced a partnership with construction firm Mace – which built Upper Riverside and The Tide – and there’s a big push forward in terms of momentum and speed of delivery. There are going to be lots of homes on their way very quickly.

“In the last four or five years, we’ve been very focused on place-making.

“The river bank, back in the day, was a desolate tarmac path that ran along the Thames, so we invested in The Tide to get people to enjoy the area.

“It was important for us that Greenwich Peninsula was not just about homes, but a balance between home and work and a place where people would want to spend time during the day.”

A show home interior at Upper Riverside
A show home interior at Upper Riverside

With Mace set to build 20 buildings as part of Knight Dragon’s 40-acre project, the exact shape of the final development cannot be set in stone.

“From an infrastructure point of view, it’s a constant game of moving things around,” said Kerri.

“When we started the project, the Silvertown Tunnel hadn’t been given the green light, so two of our buildings won’t be delivered because now that’s very much happening.

“It’s also absolutely our ambition to redevelop North Greenwich station, although we weren’t able to make our original plans for that site work.

“However, it’s important to remember, from a residents’ point of view, how well connected the Peninsula already is – London City Airport, for example, is a big plus for us.

“There’s a perception Greenwich is further away than it actually is, but once people are here they realise how well connected it actually is – just minutes from Canary Wharf and the City.”

Knight Dragon puts on numerous cultural events on the Peninsula
Knight Dragon puts on numerous cultural events on the Peninsula

Read more: How Urban Space Management wants to put homes on a bridge

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Property: How Canary Wharf-based Impact Capital Group is set to transform Romford

Developer’s eco-friendly plans win approval for former ice rink site next to Queen’s Hospital

Rom Valley Gardens is set to be built next to Queen's Hospital
Rom Valley Gardens is set to be built next to Queen’s Hospital

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“Mega, mega, mega going back to Romford” sang Underworld vocalist Karl Hyde on 1996 hit single Born Slippy, made famous by its inclusion on the soundtrack of Danny Boyle’s film adaptation of Trainspotting.

Its lyrics paint an abstract picture of the travails of journeying home to the Havering town from the point of view of an overly-inebriated narrator who’s just rolled out of a pub somewhere near Tottenham Court Road.

Fast forward 26 years, though, and not only is travelling from Soho and other parts of London to Romford set to get much quicker, it’s an area that’s experiencing a degree of mega change.

The opening of Crossrail’s central and eastern section – rumoured to be happening in May – will not only mean direct connections to Tottenham Court Road but also radically shortened journey times to whole swathes of the capital including Canary Wharf.

That’s something, presumably, the founder and CEO of One Canada Square-based Impact Capital Group, Robert Whitton, is looking forward to.

In addition to being born and raised in Romford, he’s created a company that is part of that change.

Impact Capital recently won planning permission from Havering Council to build the best part of 1,000 homes on the site of a former ice rink within walking distance of the town’s Crossrail station.

“I used to go skating there and I remember watching the Romford Raiders ice hockey team play,” said Robert. “I also used to take my children there to use the facilities.”

Artificial slippiness at the site – a piece of land encircled by Rom Valley Way adjacent to Queen’s Hospital – came to an end around a decade ago when the rink was demolished and another opened elsewhere in the town.

For the past nine years, various plans have been tabled for the area’s regeneration, culminating in Impact’s successful application.

While approval from the Greater London Authority and a Section 106 agreement remain outstanding, the hope is to break ground on what will become Rom Valley Gardens by the end of the year.

Impact Capital Group founder and CEO Robert Whitton
Impact Capital Group founder and CEO Robert Whitton

“The proposed scheme will see 972 homes built as well as 223 care units for later living or residential care, a medical centre, retail and cafe spaces, gym facilities and other amenities.

Impact’s intention is to use its modular construction factory to deliver much of the development, which will have a strong focus on sustainability.

“It feels good to have reached this point – there’s a lot of support for it,” said Robert.

“When it does come forward people will be very pleasantly surprised, because we are trying to do something that’s very different.

“It’s not going to be an ordinary development – we are looking for this to be a zero-carbon development, pushing the boundaries and looking for new concepts like inter-generational living and creating a real sense of place and community.

“That’s why we’ve included a lot of additional provision for these things within the plans, which we didn’t have to do, but wanted to.

“There will be facilities, both for residents and other community groups – an indoor gym and an outdoor gym and a big public square, where we hope to hold big outdoor events.

“There are residents’ lounges and a mixture of public and private open spaces to create a real neighbourhood – in many ways an urban village.

“We’ve put in there what is now termed ‘independent living’ with extra care provisioning, which is a great concept – it’s the idea of integrating that within a larger development, which will have elements that will also attract younger people, such as the private rental homes, and larger units for families. We want that whole mix of generations.

“I don’t live very far from it now, and have lots of friends and family who live in the area, so it’s very much my home town. It’s a great honour and privilege to be able to bring forward such a transformational project as this.”

An artist's impression of how Rom Valley Gardens will look when work is completed
An artist’s impression of how Rom Valley Gardens will look when work is completed

Robert said Impact, which will manage the development in perpetuity once it is built, would use its factory in Peterborough to ensure a high level of quality control in the building process, helping it deliver on its eco-friendly ambitions for the project.

“Construction and the built environment are the biggest polluters in the world, so we want to have a neutral footprint in delivering this neighbourhood,” he said.

“That way everyone living there will know this new neighbourhood doesn’t have a negative effect on the environment at large.

“They will also notice their energy bills are very, very low – the buildings will be firmly thermal-efficient with double or triple glazing and we’ll be making use of renewable energy.

“Because they’re built in a controlled factory environment, we can get the air-tightness of those units much better than traditional construction methods, and speed up the time it takes to get the project built.”

The development’s proximity to Queen’s Hospital – something that will be particularly beneficial to its older residents – is also an important element in its delivery.

“Included in the plans is a 3,000sq m diagnostic centre for the hospital,” said Robert.

“Timing for that is dependent on agreement with them, but that’s great for local residents.

“The hospital has also told us it has big issues with recruitment and retention, so having housing and facilities close to it will be good to help address that.

“Havering Council will work with the NHS so key workers can get prioritisation within the social housing element.”

For Wharfers interested in spotting trains – estimates vary, but Elizabeth line services could cut the commute from Romford to Canary Wharf by about 16 minutes per journey – more than half an hour a day, or two and a half hours per week.

Oh, and incidentally, Born Slippy was named after a racing Greyhound that members of Underworld once watched run in Romford – mega.

Read more: How Velocity is set to trial its revolutionary toilet on the Isle Of Dogs

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Canada Water: How Canada Water Dockside fits into regeneration plans

Art-Invest’s scheme to build offices on the edge of the water will see work at town centre’s heart

An artist's impression of how the office development might look
An artist’s impression of how the office development might look

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Art-Invest is doing something a bit unusual – at least in the context of the ongoing regeneration of Docklands, east and south-east London. 

The German developer recently received outline planning permission from Southwark Council for a scheme covering the former Decathlon store (now temporary events venue Dock X) on the edge of Canada Water.

But while rolling cranes onto such sites isn’t exactly out of the ordinary, the fact that it intends to build offices, is.

Art-Invest’s plans for Canada Water Dockside cover a chunk of land either side of Surrey Quays Road, including the now defunct Hawker House, adjacent to the 53 acres that developer British Land is currently engaged in regenerating. 

It’s a missing piece in the redevelopment of the area – a site originally earmarked for housing – that enjoys a lengthy stretch of dock edge and connects the British Land project with buildings already completed beside the Tube station.

Art-Invest’s plans are for a series of three buildings housing about 1.5million sq ft of space alongside community facilities and places to eat and drink at ground floor level. The scheme also promises to bring up to 10,000 jobs to the area.

“Back in 2019, there was an opportunity to get involved in this particular site, and we were very aware of what was happening in the area with British Land,” said Luka Vukotic, development director at Art-Invest.

“Given that the whole area was going to change from a residential district to a proper town centre, we thought it would be quite remarkable to help with that wider vision.

“What really attracted us to it was that it was already established, with existing communities all around it.

“As we were starting to consult with people, we realised how strong they were and how much local identity there already was. In addition, we were really attracted by the green and blue spaces of this place – its parks and its docks. 

“With British Land coming forward with a town centre, our scheme needed to be more than just a residential building with a boring ground floor.

“We wanted to create office space with lower levels that everyone could use – both occupiers and local communities.”

Art-Invest development director Luka Vukotic
Art-Invest development director Luka Vukotic

While many had questioned whether people would return to workplaces following the pandemic, Art-Invest remains confident that its plans have a place in the evolving way businesses and organisations operate.

“A lot of existing offices will become less attractive in the coming years for a number of reasons, some technical and some social,” said Luka. 

“We’re convinced we’ve got a really special location, so it’s now about how we make something really remarkable out of this opportunity.

“We want to help build this new town centre and to create the offices of the future. 

“What’s really helped us in this process was talking to the local community – I personally had more than 150 meetings with community stakeholders, local businesses, local residents and local groups. 

“We realised that people really like the idea of a town centre as a place to socialise – to have a drink and some food and to enjoy it.

“So then we asked people what they wanted to see and they said they would like so many things – a food hall, restaurants, local shops, a community centre, a health hub, a bike repair shop. They told us what they thought was missing.

“That allowed us to think about our buildings in a different way – instead of having a large reception area for the offices on the ground floor, we thought it would be amazing to make that space vibrant, to create streets and squares there, before looking at what’s above.”

The next round of consultations focused on what the office buildings themselves might be like.

“That’s when we started thinking about the urban green factor, with external space and terraces, and how we make this a car-free place, a zero-fossil fuel development,” said Luka.

“It’s how we’ve begun to develop the vision of what the office of the future will be. 

“That’s very different from the old thinking, where developers created these super buildings where you can spend the entire day without leaving.

“We thought it would be much nicer to deconstruct the building and ask what’s needed that’s not already there – then you can create a relatively simple development that plugs into the existing grid of facilities and amenities.

“We ended up with a planning application that has been really well received by the local community.

“That wasn’t surprising to us because of all the work we’d done.

“Now we’ve got the go-ahead, the next five to seven years are going to be really exciting, where we can actually put a lot more thought into what this development is going to be like – to bring more colour to what we have already shown.”

An artist's impression of how the ground floor of Canada Water Dockside might look
An artist’s impression of how the ground floor of Canada Water Dockside might look

Art-Invest is working with BIG Architects on the scheme, which will have an eye firmly on sustainability, aiming to create a net-zero development entirely powered by electricity.

“The office of the future is not the building itself, it’s the environment you’re creating,” said Luka. 

“Workplaces will be spaces where you come maybe three or four times a week, but not somewhere you’d come to sit at a desk for the whole day.

“When it comes to the buildings, we think that the look and feel of office blocks needs to change – they should be more welcoming. 

“Our intention is also to have lots of terraces. A lot of people complain about the weather in the UK, but I think for most of the year you can actually work outside, depending how cold it is

“We use the terrace quite extensively at our office for about eight or nine months of the year.

“Fresh air is very important to us – Canada Water has some of the cleanest air in London and we want to create buildings with opening windows, not sealed boxes that don’t feel very human.

“In the future, offices will also be places where you might come to meet other people and to do other things in addition to work that you wouldn’t necessarily do at home.

“That’s why we think Canada Water has a lot to offer – you can do all sorts of activities within a 500m radius. 

“For example, Decathlon are our next-door neighbours and with everything the area has to offer there’s an opportunity to encourage healthy lifestyles.

“When we engaged with Decathlon, we realised its vision aligns with what we’re trying to achieve in terms of healthy living, active transport, and so on.

“That’s why we have a partnership with them and have set aside a £200,000 fund to encourage health and wellbeing in Canada Water over the next five years.

“This is a grass-roots project, supporting what’s already here. 

“We are strong believers that we don’t need to create a place here – there’s already a place here – we just need to see if there’s something missing or if we can help with something that’s already in existence.

“I’d really like to thank everyone who’s been involved in the processes over the last couple of years – all those who have worked with our teams, but also all the stakeholders, the community and Southwark Council who will be engaging with us to make this a success.

“We feel that Canada Water is going to be the start of an amazing journey in the years to come.”

Art-Invest hopes to start construction in 2023 with its buildings coming in phases. Residents can expect some spaces to open by 2025 or 2026.

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Property: How Berkeley Group’s Poplar Riverside transforms a slice of east London

Head of sales and marketing Doug Acton on how 20 years of regeneration will create and urban resort

An artist's impression of the first phase of Poplar Riverside
An artist’s impression of the first phase of Poplar Riverside

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“I call it an urban resort,” said Doug Acton, head of sales and marketing at Berkeley Group and the man responsible for driving the success of its Poplar Riverside development.

“It’s close to nature and it has facilities such as a gym, a pool, a spa, a cinema room, shops, bars and restaurants.

“It could almost be a self-contained little town, but it’s open to everyone – somewhere to get away from the hustle and bustle of Canary Wharf.”

To describe Poplar Riverside as ‘tucked away’ is both accurate and somehow inappropriate.

Officially launched in June last year, the development covers a 20-acre site, will take around two decades to build and will see about 2,800 homes delivered in the East End.

This is major regeneration by Berkeley division St William – a project that will also provide a new 2.5-acre public park, a couple of bridges across the Rvier Lea, 500m of riverside walkway, 90,000sq ft of commercial space. The list goes on and on.

But take the 20-minute stroll over to the site from Canary Wharf to the soft tranquillity of Leven Road on a sunny day and you’ll find it’s something of an oasis, albeit one where the concrete superstructures of its first phase have quietly risen.

The waters of the Lea flow lazily past as cranes perform their slow-motion ballet. There’s something happening here and it’s only just begun.

Head of sales and marketing at Berkeley Group, Doug Acton
Head of sales and marketing at Berkeley Group, Doug Acton

“When people come here, they’re really excited about the regeneration story – they can see it’s a part of this massive growth corridor that’s happening along the river,” said Doug.

“They can see the potential with our investment in things like the bridges – how that improves the connectivity to Canning Town station.

“The challenge for us is getting more people to come here. Once they see it, they know it really is a transformation, that it’s a step change.”

And “step” is the right word, because Poplar Riverside is a scheme of many levels.

There are the public parks and walkways themselves and, of course, the river, all framing the buildings.

Then there are raised podium gardens for residents, underground parking and private balconies lining the pointed elevations of the brick-clad blocks.

It’s partly the attraction of these features that have seen buyers purchase about 100 of the 156 homes at the first building in the first phase of Poplar Riverside – Calico House. 

The next to go on sale will be Porter House, which is right on the river and is expected to hit the market in July.

That will be followed by Bowline House and Sisal House, which all together complete the first phase with 643 properties.

 Construction of the first phase of Poplar Riverside
Construction of the first phase of Poplar Riverside

“With Porter House we’ll be launching three-bedroom homes for the first time to go alongside the studios, one and two-bedroom homes available,” said Doug.

“It’s right next to the Lea so many will overlook the river and enjoy views across the London skyline.

“They will also benefit from the Leven Banks park, which includes a children’s playground, so it’s an exciting block to release.

“One of the things we’re really good at as a company, having learnt from projects like Royal Arsenal Riverside in Woolwich and Kidbrooke Village in Greenwich, is that you would never know, as a resident, that construction is going on.

“We commit to the landscape nice and early, not as an afterthought, so people moving in can enjoy it.

A range of properties are available at the development
A range of properties are available at the development

“We’re also constantly speaking to our residents to get feedback and find out what they want and what they don’t.

“One of the things we’re creating at this development is the Riverside Club – 16,000sq ft of facilities that will help foster community here.”

Laid out over two floors that includes a co-working space, a cinema room, meeting rooms and a games room as well as a residents’ lounge, a spa, steam room, sauna, salt room and a 20m swimming pool.

“We also have The Great Room,” said Doug, who was recruited by Berkeley from the luxury hotel industry to help it deliver the kinds of facilities normally found at such resorts at its residential property developments. 

“It’s somewhere to work, play and meet just so people can have that strong sense of community.

“We’re really keen to create that feeling of togetherness and that goes for families as well – it’s not just for adults.”

All apartments at Poplar Riverside feature outdoor space
All apartments at Poplar Riverside feature outdoor space

The homes themselves feature floor-to-ceiling windows, underfloor heating, Bosch appliances in the kitchens and Italian terrazzo worktops.

All have some form of outdoor space and the two-bedroom show home features a jack and jill main bathroom, effectively offering both bedrooms en suite facilities.

“There’s mood lighting in the bathrooms and good storage comes as standard,” said Doug.

“There’s even a nod to the golden age of industry with the taps and that’s a theme we’ve carried throughout the properties.

“The principal bedroom has built-in wardrobes and there’s an option to have those in the second bedroom too.

“We know storage is really important, so we’ve also put full-height cupboards in the kitchens to maximise the use of space.”

Properties currently on sale at Poplar Riverside start at £410,000. The earliest completions are expected in the second half of this year. 

The Poplar Riverside sales and marketing suite, which includes a two-bedroom show apartment, is open for viewings.

An artist's impression of open space at Poplar Riverside
An artist’s impression of open space at Poplar Riverside

Read more: How Republic is placing future talent at the heart of its campus

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Thamesmead: How Peabody’s Southmere scheme is transforming Abbey Wood

Housing Association has 30-year plan to refresh a massive slice of London connected to Crossrail

An artist’s impression of Peabody’s Southmere Village

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A t present, the journey from Canary Wharf to Abbey Wood takes a little over 40 minutes.

The various Frankenstein options available involve much chopping and changing – the Jubilee line, the DLR, the 486 bus and Thameslink can all come into the equation. It’s anything but direct.

But, if the seers are to be believed, all that’s about to change. When Elizabeth line services start running (perhaps as early as March, if the optimists have it right), Abbey Wood is set to be the end of the line for Crossrail’s central and eastern section.

That will put it squarely in touch with a whole swathe of central London, which is currently much trickier to travel to. The Wharf itself is expected to be around 11 minutes’ ride on a single train.

Why does this matter? Effective transportation is the lifeblood of regeneration. In east London, this is best demonstrated by Canary Wharf itself, which struggled as a project until the Jubilee line extension arrived.

What such connections mean for residential areas is possibility – the ability to rapidly access different parts of the city and the things they offer makes living in an area a richer experience.

It’s also a two-way street. Visitors come back the other way, further enlivening a place and befitting its residents.

Peabody’s Matt Foulis at the Southmere marketing suite – image Matt Grayson

No wonder Matt Foulis of Peabody is smiling. London’s oldest housing association took over ownership of Thamesmead, served by Abbey Wood to the south, in 2014 and has a 30-year plan to regenerate the area.

But as project director, Matt’s enthusiasm isn’t drawn solely from the opportunities Crossrail will bring.

It’s because he already knows what the area has to offer and can see how it will continue to develop over the course of the next three decades.

“We are under way on a the delivery of around 20,000 homes at Thamesmead,” he said.

“We completed our first development – The Reach – a couple of years ago, we’ve just started on a site at Plumstead in partnership with Berkeley and we are currently delivering what we’re calling Southmere Village – phase one of our regeneration of south Thamesmead near Abbey Wood station.”

When completed, Southmere will see 1,600 homes built across four sites close to Crossrail, new public space in the form of Cygnet Square and The Nest – a library and community centre – as well as commercial space for shops, restaurants and bars.

The scheme offers a mixture of properties available for social rent or to buy either on a shared ownership basis or via private sale. Residential blocks Starling Court and Kestrel Court are due to complete in the coming months, with strong sales reported. 

A collection of one, two and three-bedroom shared ownership properties is set to launch at Crane Court on February 12.

An artist’s impression of Peabody’s Southmere Village

Matt said: “Our properties have sold really well – I think people are really buying into the wider vision for Thamesmead.

“Over the last two years in particular, everybody has woken up to the importance of green space and proximity to water and the impact they can have on your life, your health and your wellbeing.

“That’s what we have here – Thamesmead has five artificial lakes with Southmere the biggest and they’re connected by a network of canals.

“They were designed as a surface drainage system but it means we have these fantastic assets that people can enjoy, surrounded by really impressive green spaces.

“Peabody owns, operates and manages all of these areas so we’ve got overall control of everything that’s going on in the area and that has a real impact for not only the people we’re trying to bring to the area, but also existing residents.”

Beyond the infrastructure, Peabody is also working to boost the cultural capital of Thamesmead, perhaps best known for its Brutalist architecture.

This served as a backdrop to Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian cinematic nightmare A Clockwork Orange and, more recently, in the music video for The Libertines’ What Became Of The Likely Lads.

A show apartment at the development

Matt said: “We’ve got a huge programme that we’ve been operating for the last four or five years.

“That includes things like a regular one-day festival curated by local residents in Southmere Park, which attracted 6,500 visitors last year.

“People who may never have heard about the area or visited it are starting to hear about it and it’s starting to draw people in, which has been fantastic.

“We’ve also set up a culture forum so people living here can help shape what goes on locally.

“That’s grown and grown – we’ve supported theatre productions and a live performance of the film Beautiful Thing, which was made in Thamesmead a few years back.

“It’s these sort of things we want to do – grass-roots, community-led projects that are really accessible. 

“We’ve had dance troupes, drummers and gymnasts perform in housing estates – things that are visual and tangible that people from all backgrounds, young and old, can really enjoy.

“This year we have a project called Fields Of Everywhen, which will see two artists inflate and fly an enormous hot air balloon made from tapestries that capture the personal stories of local residents.

“They spent two years working on it and finding out what makes Thamesmead tick. These activities are being driven by Peabody and we’re here for the long term.

“We expect there to be around £10billion of investment in Thamesmead over the course of the 30-year plan.

“For example, with funding from the Greater London Authority, we’ve refurbished a building called the Lakeside Centre on Southemere Lake to provide artists’ studios, a cafe, a training kitchen and a nursery – that’s being operated by Bow Arts. 

“Next to that we’ll shortly be letting a contract to build a boating and sailing centre to be run by the YMCA, which has operated on the lake for 30 years.

“It’s about making sure we’re providing amenities for everybody to enjoy with activities like kayaking, sailing and paddleboarding. 

“Eventually we’d really like to open up the canal systems so people can use them to move around Thamesmead in addition to the cycle routes and pavements.”

The shared ownership properties set to be released at Crane Court offer prospective buyers open-plan living areas, balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows in distinctive brick-clad blocks within easy walking distance of Abbey Wood station.

“They will be fantastic places to live,” said Matt. “We’ve tried to maximise views over the lake and newly built Cygnet Square where people will have all the amenities they need on hand.

“There’s car parking in secure courtyards under the blocks with podium gardens that are communal but for residents only.

“There will also be an on-site concierge service with a residents’ lounge that people can use to work from if they choose.

“Combine that with the restaurants and cafes, which will be opening around the square later this year, and that will give people  a lot of flexibility if they’re not going into the office.

“I’ve already seen people logging into the Wi-fi on seats around the lake with their coffee and doing the first two hours while sitting by the water.”

When investing in property, there’s also the future to think of and Peabody has big plans for the wider area including an extensive development to the north west of Southmere along the banks of the Thames.

There it hopes to attract an extension to the DLR across the river from Gallions Reach, further boosting local connectivity – not a bad time to get in on the ground.

Prices for shared ownership properties at Crane Court start at £91,500 for 30% of a one-bed, based on a full market value of £305,000.

Two and three-beds start at £118,500 and £153,000 respectively for the same proportion, based on full market values of £395,000 and £510,000.

Read more: Estate agency Alex Neil hails booming market

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Property: Estate agency Alex Neil sees rental demand drive lettings and sales

Area manager Georgia Nailard takes the market’s temperature and looks to the year ahead

Alex Neil area manager Georgia Nailard
Alex Neil area manager Georgia Nailard image Matt Grayson

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Much was written over the early months of the pandemic about the inevitable, lasting effects a period of home working would have on the nation.

Cities would become hollow doughnuts as workers fled areas dense with people to work permanently and remotely from desks in rural houses, meeting colleagues only via Zoom and completing assignments via broadband.

Perhaps Mark Zuckerberg’s dream of a Metaverse – where we’re all constantly online, virtually popping in and out of each others’ lives from wherever we are in the world – will come to fruition. But perhaps not.

Far more likely is that genuine, real-life human interaction will once more reassert itself as the dominant preference for work and leisure.

Before Omicron pressed the pause button and Delta was all we had to worry about, workers had flooded back into Canary Wharf – not forced to be present, but eager to meet, work and, crucially, socialise with colleagues and friends.

There was buzz, industry and colour and there will be again. 

I’ve already read at least one columnist’s account of her abortive move to the coast followed by a return to London and all its delights, having discovered life beyond the city has serious limitations. 

While a sample size of one isn’t much to go on, this anecdote fits with a trend in the local property market as demand surges for rentals.

Georgia Nailard is area manager covering estate agency Alex Neil’s operations at its Bethnal Green And Bow and Canary Wharf offices.

She said: “Throughout the lockdowns no-one went to work. At first that was exciting, but it wore off pretty quickly and most people and businesses have realised how important it is to actually be in the office with other people.

“Working at home five days a week can be very isolating – going to the office isn’t just for the company’s benefit.

“Ultimately that realisation means people want to rent in close proximity to places like Canary Wharf.

“What’s happened in the last couple of months in the run up to Christmas has been quite dramatic – the rental prices we have been able to achieve are very different from six months before that. 

“In some cases we’re getting more for them than we would have before the pandemic, which is amazing and something landlords may not be aware of.

“There has been a slight shortage of rental properties coming back to the market.

“There has been a lot of uncertainty over the past 18 months and some tenants have been signing up for longer tenancies, meaning ultimately that there aren’t as many places available to rent.

“But the demand is there – usually we’d expect the market to slow down in December and we didn’t see that in 2021. 

“With the market like this, it means when a new property becomes available we can do a large open day for viewings and we’ll usually receive multiple offers, sometimes going over the asking price.

“Doing these events means we also build up a lot of prospective tenants for properties coming onto the market. 

“I expect similar trends to continue in January and throughout the year, I don’t see that demand slowing down.

“There are often changes of circumstance for people around the Christmas period too, so that may bring even more tenants looking.”

That demand is also benefiting the sales market as canny investors see the return of profitable yields to be had in Docklands, while house prices are driven by people’s increasing desire to live on the Isle Of Dogs and nearby in east London.

Georgia said: “The way the rental market is going at the moment, there are investors out there who have cash, don’t require a mortgage and will see the opportunity Canary Wharf presents – the yield on property in the area is unbelievable at the moment.

“As an agency we’re experts in marketing property and, with our international package, that’s where we offer something quite different.

“As well as being on all the main UK portals, we make sure the properties we sell get maximum exposure here and across the world, which is really important.

“It’s about making certain that we’re angling each property at the right buyer, thinking outside the box, being proactive and educating buyers.

“Right now investors are looking for quality rather than quantity.

“It will take time for the sales market to fully recover from the pandemic, but we are starting to see some positive signs, with the numbers of applicants rising and many people looking to sell.

“Ten years ago, I think people saw the Canary Wharf area as a place to rent, but now you are seeing buyers who want to move here for the foreseeable future, with existing residents looking to upsize.

“People want to stay here because of how much it’s changing – the pubs, restaurants and bars that are opening, for example.

“The quality of the buildings here is fantastic – they have so many facilities and many of the older developments are located right on the Thames with great views.”

Georgia says she always wanted to be an estate agent
Georgia says she always wanted to be an estate agent image Matt Grayson

Georgia said Alex Neil’s role was to make moving home as easy as possible for all concerned, whether that was for buyers, sellers, landlords or tenants.

She said: “I grew up in Brighton and my dad was a car salesman – he was always selling something and had that motivation.

“We moved house quite a lot when I was younger and I loved going on viewings, so I grew up wanting to be an estate agent.

“I love working with people and helping them move – it can be one of the most stressful times in someone’s life as property is usually their biggest asset – so we try to take the stress out of things.

“There are so many emotions involved with the process but we try to make it as smooth as possible, making sure everyone’s happy at the end of it. 

“The best way to do that is to be honest and to set everyone’s expectations at the start, rather than raising them to the point where they are unrealistic.

“We always tell people how we’ll start from ‘x’ and end up at ‘y’. For sales, that means from viewing to completion.

“A lot of people haven’t bought or sold for a good number of years and forget the process. In that time there may have been changes in technology or with other parts of the transaction.

“Everyone is different, so we have to adjust to each person, making sure they understand exactly what the process is and what the steps are, from signing the terms of business to completion.

“Leaving questions with someone will only make them confused so we try never to let that happen.

“It’s the same for lettings – we aim to make letting out a property as simple as possible, because it can seem quite overwhelming.

“That’s why we’ve developed a checklist so landlords know exactly what they need to do and what they must have at every stage of the process.

“That’s what makes us stand out in the market – we’re the experts and we’ll help you every step of the way.”

Read more: Hamptons launches new office in Canary Wharf

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Canary Wharf: Hamptons unveil new office space as vote of confidence in local market

Estate agent’s Canada Square branch allows teams to come together to serve clients face-to-face

Hamptons has opened a new branch in Canada Square
Hamptons has opened a new branch in Canada Square – image Matt Grayson

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You often read about online agencies, but that’s not what people like in this area,” said Adam Wolfryd, who was appointed senior head of sales at Hamptons’ Canary Wharf operation in May.

“People want to deal with you face-to-face when it comes to their biggest asset.”

The company recently opened the doors to its new office at 20 Canada Square following relocation from its previous home at 30 South Colonnade via a brief temporary home at nearby WeWork.

“We were essentially working as an online proposition and while we were able to do that, it was challenging,” said Adam.

“The feedback we were getting from clients was that they wanted to be able to walk in and talk to us not have to book an appointment or do the whole thing remotely.

“It proved that we’re in a business that requires a traditional model to operate effectively. Opening the new office shows how much confidence Hamptons has in the Canary Wharf market.”

The company, which has more than 90 branches across the UK, has made a statement with this opening, taking over an expansive space, formerly occupied by a bank.

Dressed in pale woods, potted greenery and crisp digital screens displaying properties in its windows, there are meeting rooms for consultations with clients and plenty of space to house a team covering every aspect of the property market.

Hamptons senior head of lettings Laura Stronghill
Hamptons senior head of lettings Laura Stronghill – image Matt Grayson

The Canary Wharf office’s senior head of lettings Laura Stronghill said: “The previous space we had didn’t really suit when we expanded the team – we felt we’d outgrown it and the building was set to be redeveloped in any case.

“Then this site came up and it was the right spot for us – it gives the business better exposure, we’re closer to the Tube and it means we can bring more people in and do more business.

“We’ve expanded the sales and lettings teams. We also have our residential development team, who handle new homes, and our property management team, who look after clients with multiple properties, based here, alongside some of our corporate team.

“It means we can get everybody under one roof and provide a better level of service for our clients. 

“That’s especially important in Canary Wharf as there’s a great deal of development going on locally and a lot of investors as well as professionals relocating to the area.

“With everyone here, people walking in can speak to members of our team with a wide range of expertise to help them with whatever they need.”

Adam and Laura said that with flexible digital infrastructure in place and the office now open, Hamptons stands ready to handle properties across a broad swathe of the market.

“It’s important that people know we will take care of everything from a studio apartment to a five-bedroom house,” said Laura. “We have the ability to be creative with our marketing to get the right result.

“I’ve been with the business for more than 15 years and its core is solid. The backbone of the company is its people, its structure and its ability to retain good members of staff so we can use our experience to do a great job for our clients.

“We’re all approachable, we want people to come and meet us and we like to do tiny, noticeable things to make our clients’ lives a little bit better.

“Whether that’s popping round to a property to turn the oven off, arranging to be there to make sure tenants get their keys out of hours or even helping them move in, it’s those little extras you can count on.

“On the lettings side, there are no straightforward tenancies – that’s where the team and I come in to assist landlords as much as we can. That’s where our corporate reach really helps – we have a lot of tenants employed by blue chip companies.

“Right now, demand is through the roof – in some instances rental prices are already exceeding 2019 levels.

“Tenants are looking to secure longer deals because they don’t know where the market’s going.

“We’re starting to see landlords getting a better return, which is great. We don’t want tenants or landlords to feel they’re getting the raw end of the stick.

“The happier the tenant, the better the property is kept and the longer they will stay. The past few years have been tough for small landlords so it’s been fantastic to give them some good news. 

“We will always look after their biggest asset for them and we get very good rental returns. It’s about working the market to the best of our ability, that personal touch and having the marketing tools available to do the best job possible for our clients.”

Hamptons senior head of sales Adam Wolfryd
Hamptons senior head of sales Adam Wolfryd – image Matt Grayson

Adam is similarly optimistic about the sales market and said Hamptons was ideally placed to help vendors get what they want.

“Experience is one of the first things sellers look for from an agent,” he said. 

“In the current market, finding a buyer takes a lot of hard work and having an experienced person deal with the offer and negotiation process as well as ensuring the buyer is a viable prospect is essential.

“I’ve been working in estate agency in this area for more than 20 years and I have a team here with more than half a century of experience.

“In a fast-paced, high turnover industry, Hamptons is a recognised, respected brand and sellers will find an established team at the Canary Wharf office that can really give clients the benefit of that experience.

“We won’t rush to force a seller to accept too low an offer if we think that in a couple of weeks we can achieve a higher price, for example.

“We won’t put a sale together, unless we’re confident that we’ve done the work we needed to do to ensure that the buyer is fit to proceed.

“As rental yields in this area have hit 5% again, buyer registrations are starting to rise as we’re seeing tenants looking to purchase a property and buy-to-let investors coming back to the market.

“That suggests prices will only go in one direction and I’m quite bullish about 2022.

“Over the next 12 months, especially with Crossrail set to open and the Wharf becoming even easier to travel in and out of, people will see what a great place to live it is.

“This new office is a central hub for us – we cover properties of all kinds all the way out to Essex from here. It’s always a good time to come and talk to us, if nothing else, just to understand the value of your property – we can advise on whether it’s better to keep it and rent it out or to put it on the market. It’s the benefit of offering that all-round service.

“Whatever your property requirements are, we cover everything.

“We’re connected right across the UK and can also help with financial services, new homes, removals, cleaning and refurbishment as well as sales and lettings.”

Read More: Canary Wharf opens 8 Harbord Square show home

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Canary Wharf: Open-plan homes launched at Wood Wharf’s 8 Harbord Square

Canary Wharf Group unveils warehouse-style properties packed with industrial features

The show home has been dressed to show the space’s potential

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Through the detective novels of country singer, writer, sometime politician and fictitious amateur sleuth Kinky Friedman, I first developed a desire to live in a loft.

The Texan’s austere space shared only with a cat and dressed with a vintage espresso machine, a plaster bust of Sherlock Holmes filled with cigars and two red telephones on a desk connected to the same line to give incoming calls a greater sense of importance, struck me as aspirational. 

I even found myself making a pilgrimage to Vandam Street on a visit to New York to see the supposed site of the character’s residence – a little like fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle travel to Baker Street to stroke the foot of Holmes’ statue.

Turn on the TV, watch something American and, you’ll often find the main character living in a raw industrial space with plenty of light streaming in to illuminate exposed brickwork, bare concrete and bold art – the sort of place the supposed income from their job as a cop or a private eye would never actually support.

Cross the pond and, even in London, the dream seems unattainable. Brick-built warehouse properties don’t exactly pop up on the market very often.

Which is why the design of Canary Wharf Group’s latest collection of 82 properties for Wood Wharf is both clever and just a little bit breathtaking.

The first thing that hits you when you walk into the show apartment at 8 Harbord Square is the sheer size of it. 

Buyers could choose to keep the whole apartment open-plan

More than 1,000sq ft of almost completely unbroken space stretches out from the door, dressed to show off the potential dual aspect styling of the Gramercy – the larger of the two types of loft on offer.

While the Prospect is smaller at just over 800sq ft and single aspect, it features the same bare brick and industrial radiator finish.

It also shares with its sibling the fact that the only fixed elements within are the bathroom and kitchen. 

Everything else is up for grabs. Buyers can take the spaces as bare shells and fill them full of high-end furniture, art and retro curios or choose to divide the space with walls in a more conventional layout.

“This is a brand new concept for Canary Wharf and, as far as I know, in new-build developments over the last 20 years I’ve been working in the industry,” said Canary Wharf Group director of residential sales Brian De’ath. 

“We’re creating a warehouse-style space and giving it over to truly open-plan living. The show apartment demonstrates that – there are no internal walls other than the ones dividing the bathroom off from the rest of the space.

“The way we’ve dressed it reflects one possible way of living in these apartments, but they lend themselves to a multitude of options.

“You could, for example, divide them up into three bedrooms or one bedroom with a study.

“We’ve created a suite of floorplans to help give people ideas as well as partnering with an interior designer who will also offer advice if that’s what buyers are looking for.

“With most new-build properties, those decisions have already been made by the developer – where a bedroom is located and what size it is. 

“With these, people can absolutely configure their own space or leave it completely open. 

“When the 82 apartments are finished, I hope I can walk into them and see 82 different ways of living in them.”

The bathroom and kitchen are the only two fixed features

Launched earlier this month, the apartments all feature Crittal-style windows, exposed brickwork, black ceiling fans, red pipework for the sprinkler system and black cast iron radiators.

Kitchens come in stainless steel with Siemens appliances, while bathrooms include freestanding baths, twin sinks and walk-in Crittal-style shower areas.

The feel is deliberately industrial with exposed electrical conduits and it’s all part of Canary Wharf Group’s plan to attract a certain kind of buyer.

“It’s not something anyone ever asks for,” said Brian. “But people have said they really like seeing how the building works.

“We wanted to create a diversity of product on the estate. We’ve completed our first apartments in 10 Park Drive and One Park Drive and they offer a fabulous way to live in Canary Wharf in a traditional style of home.

“We didn’t want to follow them up with another building in the same mould. We wanted to show another way to live here and to reach a demographic who perhaps hadn’t previously considered the estate as a place for them.

“What we have here is very different to everything else.  It’s a real representation of everything you’d get living in a warehouse that was built 150 years ago – the high 2.9m ceilings, for example – but with all the modern conveniences of a new-build and the amenities of the whole of Canary Wharf within a 15 minute walk.

“We think these properties will really appeal to people who are design-savvy, who want to curate their life through the things that they own and live with. We haven’t tried to create a building that people say is ‘quite nice’. Buyers will either fall in love with it or it won’t be for them. 

“We can see how popular true second-hand warehouse stock is in London – places such as West India Quay, Shad Thames, Clerkenwell and Shoreditch – such apartments in these places appear on the covers of interiors magazines.

“We think people who like those properties will also like these.”

Located in Wood Wharf, 8 Harbord Square will be adjacent to forthcoming shopping area The Lanes – an area intended to have the feel of Soho’s bustling streets and businesses. The 11-storey building will be finished in ornate red brickwork and tiles and sits next to Harbord Square park towards the eastern edge of Canary Wharf.

Prices start at £745,000 for a Prospect apartment.

Read More: Discover shared ownership homes at Landmark Pinnacle

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Isle Of Dogs: Poplar Harca and FAHHA Landmark Pinnacle homes for less

Housing associations unveil show homes for shared properties in Europe’s tallest residential tower

The show homes have been dressed to show the apartments' potential
The show homes have been dressed to show the apartments’ potential

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The areas surrounding Canary Wharf and the estate itself aren’t exactly short of residential towers, but only one can lay claim to be the tallest in Europe.

Landmark Pinnacle stands at the head of West India South Dock, rising more than 230m into the sky.

While the majority of the properties in the tower are being sold privately, a collection of 70 apartments has been made available on a shared ownership basis.

Housing associations Poplar Harca and Funding Affordable Homes Housing Association (FAHHA) have taken on 35 each, with the former handling sales and marketing duties on behalf of both organisations.

Located in the lower third of the 75-storey building, the properties have been designed to offer views of either the sun rising in the morning in the east or setting in the west. 

Poplar Harca head of sales and marketing Helen Mason
Poplar Harca head of sales and marketing Helen Mason

Poplar Harca head of sales and marketing Helen Mason said: “Working with FAHHA, we have a total of about 40 one and two-bedroom apartments still available at Landmark Pinnacle for shared ownership.

Buyers can generally purchase between 25% and 75% and then pay a reduced rent on the remaining equity.

“The scheme is mainly targeting first-time buyers – single, professional business people or couples in full-time employment with a total household income of less than £90,000.

“You don’t have to be a first-time buyer, but you do have to be free of a mortgage and you can’t be on any other deeds to a property part-owned here or abroad. 

“All applicants are subject to a financial assessment to ensure the scheme is affordable and that their savings don’t push them over the threshold of being considered able to buy on the open market.”

Remaining properties at Landmark Pinnacle start at £135,000 for a 25% of a one-bedroom home with a market valuation of £540,000. Two-beds start at £188,750 for the same share.

Poplar Harca senior sales executive Ashton Wylie
Poplar Harca senior sales executive Ashton Wylie

Poplar Harca senior sales executive Ashton Wylie said: “When you actually look at the monthly outgoings on these properties it’s very reasonable, which people might not assume.

“It’s well worth looking into because it would cost a buyer between £1,504 and £1,638 per month to live in a one-bed and between £1,971 and £2,232 for a two-bed. That includes the rent and the mortgage on the portion of the property the buyer owns.

“We’ve kept the rents low – to 1.75% in comparison to a typical shared ownership rate of 2.75% to make sure these properties are affordable.”

Landmark Pinnacle is located within easy walking distance of all of Canary Wharf’s amenities and transport links.

“It’s an iconic building and the location is fantastic,” said Helen.

“For anyone working in the area, it has all that on its doorstep and the estate isn’t Monday-to-Friday any more – there’s so much going on at the weekends.

“There are lots of developments in the area, but people who have seen these apartments have been really pleased with the outlook, the specification and what’s on offer. They’ve been received really well.”

Apartments come with open-plan living areas, fully fitted kitchens with integrated appliances, rainfall showers in the bathrooms, climate control systems and floor-to-ceiling windows.

The one-bedroom homes also feature winter gardens that can be used for a variety of functions. 

The service charge covers access to the concierge service and the building’s indoor garden on the 27th floor as standard.

Unusually for shared ownership properties, buyers can also choose to opt to pay more and gain access to all of the building’s facilities, which include a private cinema, private dining rooms, 75th floor roof terraces, a lounge, a library and a residents’ gym.

The apartments feature an open-plan design
The apartments feature an open-plan design

“If you buy here, you’re buying into a lifestyle,” said Ashton. “We’ve had developments before that might have been amazing but didn’t offer shared ownership buyers the option to access the amenities.

“Here that doesn’t happen and because that’s possible it really allows people to live the lifestyle they want to. 

“Many of the people who have moved in have already expressed an interest in opting in when those facilities become available, which is set to be by next April. We expect more or less everyone to end up doing it.

“You can’t opt out again once you’ve opted in, but if someone buys a flat later on, they can always take up the offer then.”

Poplar Harca has show flats dressed and ready to view at the building. Under shared ownership, prospective buyers typically pay a 5% deposit on the share of the property they’re buying.

That means, for the cheapest home available at Landmark Pinnacle, saving up £6,750 to get a foot on the ladder.

Email sales.enquiries@poplarharca.co.uk or call 020 7538 6460 for more information

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