diamond geezer

 Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Today it's nine years since the opening ceremony of London 2012. Nine years is usually an overlookable anniversary but the delayed 2020 Games are currently playing out in Tokyo, and it's the first time the Olympics have ever taken place in an odd-numbered year, so you're going to get a post about the Olympic Park anyway.

More pertinently it's ten years since the Olympic Park Legacy Company chose the names of the five future residential neighbourhoods, two of which were nominated by readers of this blog (hi Ollie, hi Dave). I've been round to see how they're developing, from the one that's almost finished to the two they still haven't started yet.

Chobham Manor
This is the big slice to the north of the Athletes Village, stretching from the Velodrome to Temple Mills Lane, and is the only neighbourhood they've almost finished. Phases 1 and 2 are already being lived in, across a grid of backstreets including all the usual flats but also several attractive three storey townhouses. This means not many people get to live down Coopers Lane, Millers Row or Keirin Road, each a low density aberration unlikely to be repeated elsewhere across the Park, but well done if you snapped one up. A central spine of parklets with pocket playgrounds breaks up the development, though seemingly little used, and a couple of corner commercial units remain very much to let ('All Uses Considered').

Phase 3 overlooking the mountain bike wilderness is nearing completion, rather flattier, and all sold out. I'm pleased to say that the dead-looking History Tree at the eastern gateway has been replaced, but less pleased to add that after one growing season its replacement already looks almost as dead. Phase 4 faces the Waterglades and is substantially complete, if architecturally less distinguished with its pastel balconies in lieu of brickwork. I note that a new 1 bed apartment here is currently selling for £470,000, that bedroom being almost 3m wide, so average Londoners need not apply.
Homes built: 550   Homes to be built: 850

East Wick
This is the neighbourhood between the Lea and the northern park, already home to Here East and a primary school, and which has finally burst forth as a residential quarter this year. The barriers are down around a small nucleus of flats crammed just north of the Copper Box, some of which are still very much under construction and others already inhabited. These backstreets are designed to be car-free, hence the blocks have considerable cycle parking underneath, and the architects take pride that no building is the same. For some reason the streets are named after famous people born in Clapton, Maryland and Forest Gate rather than properly local, one of whom is film actress Jessica Tandy and another a Victorian anti-vivisectionist.

A new corner cafe called the Clarnico Club opened earlier this year, initially echoingly empty but recently picking up trade despite the presence of two other coffee shops within a two minute walk. It faces the grassy edge of the Olympic Park that's due to be built on next, once contractors have got round to digging up most of the trees and replanting them somewhere else. East Wick still has a lot more residential expansion to go. Meanwhile a substantial chunk of Here East is being remodelled as the V&A East Storehouse, "a new immersive experience providing unprecedented public access to V&A collections", which should be a magnificent facility to live beside when it opens in 2024.
Homes built: 100   Homes to be built: 850

Still by the canal, but south of the Overground, is the district named after a long-defunct confectionery factory. So far you can go to school here but not live here, nor buy anything off plan because no attempt at residential construction has begun. Instead the priority has been building new roads not envisaged when the Olympic masterplan was drawn up, in what's probably been the biggest tweak to Park infrastructure over the last twelve months. Even then the new road bridge over to Fish Island still isn't finished, two years after the original footbridge was removed, although the latest gossip says pedestrians and cyclists should be allowed across early next month. Construction of Sweetwater's final phase isn't due to start until (blimey) 2031.
Homes built: 0   Homes to be built: 650

Marshgate Wharf
This is the odd one out, the only Olympic neighbourhood whose 2011 name appears to have been entirely dropped. Most of it is now known as Stratford Waterfront, a much more literal name and I suspect more financially prestigious. The big development here has yet another name which is East Bank, which'll become the Park's new cultural quarter when it starts opening up in 2023. From left to right the current line-up of liftshafts and unclad concrete will become...

• A new museum, V&A East (eventually resembling some kind of squatting bug)
• UAL's London College of Fashion (the tallest and most substantially complete)
• BBC Music studios (essentially the new Maida Vale, allowing that to be sold off)
• Sadler's Wells (a 550-seat theatre, dance centre and, er, hip hop academy)
(a few proper residential towers will be built too, to help pay for the above, but no sign yet)

The other arm of what used to be called Marshgate Wharf stretches from just south of the Aquatics Centre to just south of the Stadium. The last twelve months have seen two new buildings shoot up here - Marshgate and Pool Street West - forming the hub of University College London's new campus. The chunkier block will contain laboratories, research space, teaching facilities and (at ground level) accessible public spaces, while the taller 20-storey block will be predominantly student accommodation but with more communal stuff lower down. The campus is due to start opening next September, and should be fully ready for the next academic intake after that.
Homes built: 0   Homes to be built: 600

Pudding Mill
The final QEOP neighbourhood is another where, even nine years after the Games, nobody lives. Everything that London 2012 used for back of house remains as acres of hardstanding, occasionally used for car parking or for storage of stadium seats whenever athletics takes place. A preposterous temporary theatre is currently being constructed, its hexagonal ribcage now mostly in place, but as yet not a single home. The absence of infrastructure probably contributed to Sunday's unworldly flood outside the DLR station, but the only local residents inconvenienced would have been those staying in the adjacent container hotel. Only a smattering of mud remained yesterday morning, you'll be pleased to hear.
Homes built: 0   Homes to be built: 1500

It's a measure of the long game being played here that somehow nine years after London 2012 barely 500 homes have yet been built on the Park. Thousands have gone up close by, as the the Games continue to act as a massive catalyst for change, but it'll be TWENTY years before QEOP's full residential potential is realised. Housing shortage? What housing shortage?

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