diamond geezer

 Saturday, May 08, 2021

Canary Wharf has a brand new district called Wood Wharf. As if the place isn't rich enough already, the money-grabbing bastards have only gone and struck out east by building a dense new neighbourhood on a former industrial estate. It's been a long time coming and is barely half finished so far, but will grow into a place designed to collaborate, to innovate and to embrace the future. Tower Hamlets is one of the poorest boroughs in the country and yet we're still building luxury baubles to pander to the privileged few.

This residential-led, mixed-use, waterside community includes several apartment towers, a dockside park and a significant amount of office space. When you think of all the socially-responsible alternatives these 23 acres of brownfield site could have been used for it's a criminal waste. Imagine living a stone's throw from the office in a fully furnished apartment with world-class dining options on your doorstep. It's sickening to see this prime location on the Poplar borders transformed into yet another playground for the rich.

To find Wood Wharf, head out of the small entrance at the opposite-to-normal end of Canary Wharf station and keep going. Dodge the windswept outdoor tables for boozed-up bankers, continue past the security barrier and try to avoid the guard's steely gaze. This sloping causeway is Water Street, its dockside recently activated by the arrival of two floating multi-storey pavilions. One will be filled by The London Project, a Dubai-based hospitality extravagance, so expect their "conceptual bar, restaurant and lifestyle venue" to be full of the most detestable people imaginable.

8 Water Street (with its special emphasis on pet-friendly apartments) welcomed its first residents last year, while 10 George Street's marketing centre is now open for walk-in viewings. These flats aren't cheap, as you can tell from the snazzy threads worn by the loaded tossers swishing in and out. As yet Herzog & de Meuron's 58-storey signature cylindrical tower at One Park Drive, with its dazzling white exterior divided into three irregular typologies, is not yet occupied. Prices here start at £840,000, ffs, for which any banker with common sense could buy a much larger property in the Shires with an actual garden.

Food marketplace Mercato Metropolitano (Mayfair/Elephant & Castle) and urban eatery Pedler (Peckham) are already committed to bringing their artisanal wares to the neighbourhood, which is currently food-free. Overpriced croissantmongers Gail's Bakery were also primed to move in but footfall is currently peanuts and their jaunty hoardings have thankfully been taken down. When the development is complete a central retail district based around a cluster of narrow lanes will provide Wood Wharf's retail heart. Don't expect anything useful, just rapacious businesses hoping to topslice the excess wealth of residents and visitors alike.

Street art is an important part of life at Wood Wharf, including two startlingly life-sized fibreglass figures facing off on the pavement in Park Drive. Until recently you could have found a mirrored steel turd in Water Street, ideal for reflective Insta selfies, but don't rush because that's already been whipped away. The most recent arrival is Minotaur and Hare on Bench by Sophie Ryder, recently implanted as an adjunct to the new children's playground. So long as nobody brings more than three children at the same time, the playground should perform its function admirably.

The best part of Wood Wharf right now is Harbour Quay Gardens, a vibrant greenspace expanding inexorably alongside the South Dock. To be fair it is quite nice, as you'd expect from a corporate development that can afford to greenwash its surroundings to lure in as many potential purchasers as possible. A long sinuous wiggle of benches faces south and is already well-frequented by the workforce on adjacent building sites. But someone needs to have a word with the morons who installed an additional row of benches 50cm from the water's edge, so close that nobody can safely step round to sit in the middle and anything you drop risks getting very wet.

Wood Wharf continues to flourish and grow, with most of the commercial and residential district beyond Charter Street still a busy construction site. New blocks of flats are clearly visible from the cut-through footpath, including one so stereotypically drab it can only be destined for affordable lowlife. In a couple of years' time expect Wood Wharf to be a thriving destination for lunchtime grazing, weekend browsing and high-rise living. But it's pretty much dead at present, so keep this bombastic pustule on your radar and don't waste your time coming down just yet.

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