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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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Greenwich Peninsula: How The O2’s premium offer has evolved over 15 years

The North Greenwich venue is celebrating one and a half decades in business since launch in 2007

The O2 is celebrating 15 years since its first gig
The O2 is celebrating 15 years since its first gig

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To paraphrase the work of the late, great Prince Rogers Nelson –  it’s been 14 years and 361 days, since The O2 officially welcomed its first audience (at the time of writing).

The chords that rang out on June 24, 2007 did not come from the purple guitar of His Royal Badness – although he did play a 21-date residency at AEG’s Greenwich Peninsula venue in its inaugural year. 

That honour was taken by Bon Jovi and, as the duck-quacking riff of Livin’ On A Prayer sounded in the Arena, Matt Botten was standing in the wings.

“I’d snuck in at the side, having made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to miss it,” he said.

“I found myself standing just behind AEG president Tim Leiweke and immediately I started thinking: ‘What have I done? Should I even be here?

“But he turned round and we high-fived – it was this feeling that we’d all done it.

“It was a huge relief to hear those chords, to know everybody was in the building, that the suites were full.

“We had done it, we’d opened and we’ve never looked back.”

As head of hospitality then, and senior director of premium seating now, Matt has pretty much seen it all – making him the ideal interviewee as The O2 prepares to celebrate its 15th birthday.

“I always joke that when I finally retire or move on, there’s a book waiting to be written,” he said.

“There have been some huge events – the opening was massive and when Led Zeppelin reformed for a single show in 2007, that night was a who’s who of the music industry.

“Working on premium, I’ve been fortunate that some of my experiences have meant contact with remarkable people – just escorting the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, David Beckham and Kylie Minogue to their suites.

“But really it’s the little things that we do as a team – bringing someone a birthday cake, making those ‘wow’ moments happen. Delivering a real difference to somebody’s experience – that are huge for me.”

The O2's senior director of premium seating Matt Botten
The O2’s senior director of premium seating Matt Botten – image Matt Grayson

For a bit of context, it’s important to realise what a massive deal The O2 is.

Pandemic notwithstanding, the project has taken Richard Rogers’ vacant tent following its troubled inception as the Millennium Dome and created a venue that by 2020 had sold more tickets to events than anywhere else in the whole world, every year, for more than a decade.

Right here, in London on Greenwich Peninsula. Let that sink in. Nothing compares.

With a broader range and greater number of shows than any other arena in the UK, The O2 heads into its 15th year with a packed schedule. 

Billie Eilish, Alanis Morissette, The Kings Of Leon, Cirque Du Soleil and Haim are all set to play in the first 30 days.

 But there are also a host of sporting events in the pipeline including boxing with Chisora vs Pulev, UFC Fight Night London and the Laver Cup London with tennis stars Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal scheduled to play.

“That’s what makes The O2 unique – the sheer number and variety of events,” said Matt. “It really is quite something working here – I’ve got lots of peers and friends working at sporting venues and they talk about the 30 shows they have a year. We have 25 just in June.

“That was a real game-changer in the corporate market. Everyone was used to Twickenham and Wembley, which I say with great affection because I worked at both of them.

“I sold my first T-shirt at the old Wembley Stadium with the twin towers back in 1997 outside a tribute gig marking the release of Nelson Mandela.

“Then I ended up working there full-time after my A-Levels, and then Wembley Arena, and that threw up opportunities such as spending time on the road servicing U2 tours, selling merchandise.

“Then I was at Twickenham Stadium for many years, and then moved across to The O2 when it was still a building site inside.

“For the launch, we had to educate people. Businesses could understand the value of gigs by the Rolling Stones or Queen but what about The X-Factor or Disney events? 

The American Express Lounge at The O2

“When we were launching in 2007 it was about that shift in work-life balance – if someone accepts an invitation to go to a game of football, for example, that might mean a day out of the office.

“But as a company, if you can work it so that guests can bring their whole family to an event, then you can merge the two things and over the years we’ve seen more and more use of our suites in that way.

“The companies that buy them also use them for staff incentives internally or in partnership with local organisations such as charities and schools. 

“When we opened, we had two premium products – the suites and an annual membership, which was typical for stadium venues.

“We’re proud to say, after 15 years, we still have some of  our original clients with us – some having taken suites for five or even 10 years initially. 

“But since then, a lot has changed – our smallest suite has 15 seats and, if you imagine 180 shows a year times 15, that’s a lot of invites to ensure you’re getting people down and making the most of your investment.”

The two levels of suites offer commanding views over the stage
The two levels of suites offer commanding views over the stage

An evolving business landscape and a resurgent experience economy has seen The O2 expand and develop its premium offerings in concert with those two core strands, meaning there are now more ways to experience high-end hospitality and personal luxury at the venue than ever.

“This is particularly pertinent post-Covid,” said Matt. “We’ll see if it continues, because people’s disposable income at the moment is being squeezed in all areas.

However, with people having been locked down for 18 months to two years, there seems to have been this shift from an emphasis on buying physical possessions to buying experiences.

“We’ve seen more individuals thinking that, if they’re going out, they want to make it a night to remember.

“The corporate suites are a large part of our business, but the direction we’re going in is to make them and a range of other premium experiences available to far more people.

“Even before the pandemic, there was demand for smaller numbers, simpler products – options akin to a season ticket at a football ground.

“We’ve seen smaller businesses buying into this too – they can use two, four or six seats at every event where they would struggle to deal with 20.”

This shift has resulted in a collection of products including whole suite hire for a specific event, Encore Seats offering individuals tickets to 10 shows a year, plus the option to buy more in the members’ area of the venue close to the stage and, for businesses, the chance to buy a number of seats in a shared suite for a set period of time.

The venue also offers American Express Advantage tickets to the credit card company’s customers guaranteeing seats right by the stage.

These and several of the other premium options also grant access to the luxury American Express Lounge, which offers live music, cocktails and food on event days.

The current crop of premium options – with more in the pipeline – reflects the venue’s increasingly relaxed approach to its model, something typified by the freedom its suite clients have to design their spaces.

Matt said: “Back in 2007 we were probably a little bit more corporate.

“Today our customers want to bring their brand identity into their space and we understand that. 

“Companies inviting people to events need to get a return on their investment and those attending need to know who’s invited them, so we work with them and they can do pretty much anything. 

“I have this idea that we’ll end up with the most eclectic collection of suites in the UK. We have some very corporate ones and one from a partner who’s just come on board that has a shuffleboard table in it.”

Suites at The O2 offer a range of attractions including a dedicated bar
Suites at The O2 offer a range of attractions including a dedicated bar

Read more: How The O2 is fixing the hole in its roof

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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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Greenwich: How The O2 is fixing its roof having reopened its doors to visitors

Peninsula venue was mostly up and running a week after Storm Eunice, with part of Icon now trading

Storm Eunice ripped off part of The O2's roof
Storm Eunice ripped off part of The O2’s roof – image Matt Grayson

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The holes ripped in the roof of The O2 by viscous winds instantly became the defining image of Storm Eunice as it tore across England on February 18, 2022.

In total eight out of the 72 segments that make up the dome were damaged, leaving a gaping hole in the eighth largest building in the world. 

Thankfully nobody was injured at the venue and while 6,000sq m of roof was missing it took staff a week to reopen the majority of the venue so concerts could resume and the attractions of Entertainment Avenue could start trading again.

A month after the storm, a section of outlet shopping centre Icon At The O2 also reopened, recently welcoming a new store from menswear brand Skopes

While the bulk of the retail destination remains closed as it is located directly under the hole, work to temporarily weatherproof the gap continues apace. 

Full access is expected for shoppers in early May, once the venue is watertight and any damage to the units below has been repaired. 

With trading already strong in the reopened section, that’s something Icon’s managing director Janine Constantin-Russell can’t wait for.

Icon At The O2 managing director Janine Constantin-Russell
Icon At The O2 managing director Janine Constantin-Russell

“I think we felt particularly tested because we’d opened our doors again and we were seeing such strength in our numbers after restrictions eased,” she said.

“To have to stop again felt particularly trying. But there’s definitely been a sense of cameraderie about it.

“Our teams have been fantastic – to open up the entertainment district and the arena a week to the day after the storm happened was an amazing feat – and then to open 22 stores at Icon in March was even more incredible.

“The press that we’ve had from Storm Eunice has been kind and sympathetic and we’ve had such lovely support from our local customers who have come to have a look and have supported us by spending their money here.

“In some ways it’s been an opportunity to open our door a little bit wider, to say: ‘We’re here, we’re made of sturdy stuff but these things happen’. We’ve been able to show the best we can do.”

Icon At The O2 has partially reopened with full access expected in May
Icon At The O2 has partially reopened with full access expected in May – image Matt Grayson

In addition to Skopes, more openings are in the pipeline with brands selling high performance sportswear and homeware expected to launch when the remaining section of the venue is back in business. 

“We would say that mass media attention on The O2 is such that we have never been so busy from a lettings perspective,” said Janine.

“We’ve been showing potential tenants around literally in hard hats as the units we’ve got available are under the part of the Icon affected by the repair work.

“Without exception, all of our businesses have seen improvement since the changes in Covid restrictions.

“On average sales are up 50%-60% on 2019 and we’ve seen those numbers come through straight away.

“But what we’re seeing is not necessarily a pent-up demand, it’s like a return to what people missed out on.

“It was fantastic to have online shopping during the pandemic and everyone’s now found a place for how they manage that – how it makes their life more convenient.

“It also means people have a bit more time to spend picking up luxuries and making decisions in store – so what we’ve ended up with is this really discerning customer who’s enjoying shopping and spending their time and money doing that.

“What we’ve seen is that the brands are curating their stores better to make sure they’re giving those people what they want.”

Activities are also a key draw with the likes of football venue Toca Social, Boom Battle Bar, Oxygen Freejumping soon to be joined by indoor skydiving venue iFly, which recently won planning permission to build a facility to the north of the dome.

“In other locations iFly attracts 150,000 visitors a year, so we’re super happy about that,” said Janine.

“As for the future, we always want to think big. For example, the venue’s roof climbing experience – Up At The O2 – is such an exciting thing, anything we do has to equal or top that.

“It has to have that wow factor and we’re pursuing lots of lines of enquiry to make sure whatever we do will be amazing.

“We quite like the idea of zip lines – we’ve seen some on the inside of venues and that would be super-cool.”

Executive vice president real estate and development at AEG Europe, Alistair Wood
Executive vice president real estate and development at AEG Europe, Alistair Wood

FABRIC FIX – REPAIRING THE ROOF

As executive vice president real estate and development at AEG Europe (the company that owns The O2), Alistair Wood is responsible for overseeing the project to repair the damage wrought by Storm Eunice.

“There was nothing at all we could do on the February 18 so we reconvened the following day and the extent of the damage was quite frightening,” he said.

“It was a disaster rescue situation and we had to respond very quickly, which we did, making some very good, rapid decisions.

“We had to postpone two concerts in the week after the storm but we focused on making sure the UB40 show in the arena took place on February 25 because, having just come out of the pandemic, we couldn’t tolerate any further delays.

“In the end the two postponed concerts by Dave took place a week after they were supposed to happen, so phase one was a great success.

Now we’ve been focusing on getting the venue waterproof and we want to be finished with that by Easter.

“Initially we’ll be installing a temporary roof that will be in place for the next year or two.

That’s because the material – PTFE – is quite specialised and in quite high demand so there’s about a 12-month lead time on orders.

“Generally we’re pleased with how quickly we’ve been able to get going again but we’re not understating how harrowing that Saturday morning was.

“The buildings at Icon aren’t designed to stand outside so our biggest challenge has been water coming into the venue.

“It has rained very heavily for a couple of days and, while we have scaffolding up that supports a canopy across the buildings to achieve a degree of protection, some still gets in.

“We’re now working with all our tenants to identify the damage and refit the units where necessary and then get us fully reopened in early May.

“Fortunately there was no damage to the structure that holds up the dome, so for the canopy it’s just a case of hooking the material to that and welding a waterproof seal over the top.

“In the wider venue, it’s great to be coming out of the pandemic and we should be pumping out a record couple of years in the arena and that will support the hospitality and retail venues.

“We’re really upbeat about how things are going and our fingers are crossed for a clear run now to allow Icon to get some momentum alongside the rest of the site.

“All the current attractions are bringing their own footfall but also sharing that audience and that has always been the point of The O2.

It operates as a composite destination so you can spend your whole day there.”

Looking ahead, hopefully that’s the last of the holes.

Workers repairing the damage over Icon At The O2
Workers repairing the damage over Icon At The O2 – image Matt Grayson

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