diamond geezer

 Thursday, July 03, 2014

It's not just the Carpenters Estate that's taking years to move from development opportunity to redevelopment. All across East London sites are sitting waiting to become flats, hotels, whatever, just as soon as someone gets the planning permission and the investment together. And sometimes they're sitting waiting for a very long time. I've been round to catalogue a few that've finally started to appear.

Was: East Greenwich Gas Works (1886-1976)
Was: Meridian Quarter, the Millennium Dome (2000)
Plans for: a luxury hotel (blogged February 2010)
Is: a pair of lift shafts
Will be: InterContinental London The O2 (September 2015)

If you visited the Dome at the turn of the century, and walked out back to the banks of the Thames, you'll have entered the reedbeds and piazza of the Meridian Quarter. The plan was to create a sustainable wetland environment, except the area got fenced off in 2001 and was eventually reappropriated as a dumping ground for stuff the O2 wasn't using. Plans to redevelop the site were finally announced in 2010, including "a 452-key Hotel in a building of varying heights" and, adjacent, "100 units of serviced residential apartments in a 24-storey tower". Four years later, hey presto, both buildings are finally arising from the foreshore. The apartment block has a few more storeys to go, lifting it almost to the height of the Dome's yellow spikes alongside. The hotel is a little lower and rather more spread out, with the skeleton of a few lower storeys spread out down below. How much of an eyesore the place is depends on which angle you look from - it's not too obtrusive from East India Dock, but the view of the Dome from Canary Wharf is now permanently disfigured. One pleasing thing is that the new complex doesn't quite straddle the meridian - the zero degrees line has been left uncovered, hopefully for some kind of public space. But blimey, isn't the pace of development on the North Greenwich peninsula slow? A decade and a half since the site was cleared, most of the potential residential opportunities remain as car park or fenced-off brownfield.

Was: Pura Foods Ltd vegetable oil refinery, Leamouth peninsula (until 2006)
Plans for: a luxury residential development (blogged October 2013)
Is: a barren tongue of land (2009-2014)
Will be: City Island (2017)

Plans have been afoot to redevelop the Leamouth peninsula, where the Lea meets the Thames, for well over a decade. This narrow meander-bound site would have been flats long ago were it not by far the least accessible place in Tower Hamlets. Canning Town station is incredibly close, but on the other side of a river, so redevelopment rests on somebody, anybody, adding a bridge. Planning permission was granted in 2004 - I even entered a competition to give the bridge a name - but bugger all then happened on the interconnectivity front. A few years later all the post-industrial leftovers were knocked down, and then tumbleweed. Last year the site's developers finally announced the creation of 'City Island' and popped over to Malaysia to formally launch the sale of 1700 flats, although tellingly the brochure didn't feature any images of the levelled desert as it is now. This summer the first couple of buildings have started to appear, no more than three storeys of concrete skeleton so far, but every luxury riverside village has to start somewhere. Most excitingly a bridge has suddenly turned up. It's big and tubular and red, and at present it's parked up on the southern side awaiting eventual installation. I guess it was best transported in before the rest of the peninsula was covered with flats, but it'll be three years before anyone can walk out of Canning Town station's mothballed entrance to cross it.

Was: Some old white building by Stratford bus station (until 2012)
Plans for: a 26 storey residential tower
Is: an 18 storey part-clad structure
Will be: Stratford Plaza (2015)

From an insignificant husk of a building to the tallest tower in central Stratford, never underestimate the development potential of a scrap of land in an utterly prime location. It's taken years, but this one's now rising one floor at a time, topped off by a thicker oval ring at the top for construction purposes. Residents will have a grandstand view of the City and the Olympic Park, or the bus station and Forest Gate, so that'll be nice for some of them. I still can't get used to Stratford becoming London's latest skyscraper nexus, but I'll have to because several more are planned, most particularly up Stratford High Street and around Westfield. Care to guess how the future inhabitants of Stratford Plaza's apartments stack up? You won't be surprised, merely disappointed, to hear that 80% of the 200 flats went to investors from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, and the remaining 40 went to UK buyers. Time was when Newham's poorest residents were shoved into tower blocks, now they can only look up and dream of the days when the council catered for its people.

And three more local examples...

Was: J Bulman & Sons Carpet Contract Ltd, by the Bow Roundabout (until 2013)
Plans for: 14-level City West Tower and 34-level Sky View Tower (blogged December 2013)
Is: demolished and levelled, and snapped up by foreign investors
Will be: Capital Towers (2016)

Was: Greasy spoon and bikers hideaway on Hancock Road, beside the A12 (until 2012)
Plans for: a 35 hectare "homezone" with 680 mostly-flats (blogged September 2011)
Is: a razed brownfield site, recently surrounded by a perimeter of marketing boards
Will be: Bow River Village (Spring 2015)

Was: Unity Tyre Company Limited, 213 Bow Road, by the flyover (until June 2013)
Plans for: a five storey stack of speckly-brick flats
Is: mostly-demolished, roof open to the sky, walls not long for this world
Will be: 36 apartments, 25 for private sale (2016)

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