London workers get taste for Canary Wharf living

Developer hopes to capitalise on the capital's growing population and lifestyle changes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 November, 2014, 7:13am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 November, 2014, 7:13am

Canary Wharf Group's plans for high-rise living in London's transformed financial centre mark a new departure for it and workers in Britain's capital who have until now preferred to live at a distance from their offices.

Having revamped what were derelict docks into a gleaming collection of skyscrapers, the group is confident it can persuade bankers and lawyers to call the area on London's eastern flank their home as well as their place of work.

Songbird Estates, which owns 69 per cent of Canary Wharf Group, is one of the frontrunners in the race to capitalise on an expected explosion in London's population with a plan for lux- ury high-rise apartments that could double the size of the original wharf development estate.

"People are working differently now. They might come in and work until small hours in the morning and want to be able to get home," said Nick Parr, a partner at Knight Frank.

He added that modern living now had a "Southeast Asian influence - where everything goes on 24 hours a day and is all on your doorstep when you need it".

Canary Wharf Group's first foray into residential development has already attracted would-be buyers to it.

Last week, the company rejected a £2.2 billion (HK$27 billion) takeover approach from the Qatar Investment Authority and Brookfield Property Partners, saying it undervalued the group.

The plans for Canary Wharf living include a 60-storey residential skyscraper and Wood Wharf, an eight-hectare riverside development complete with a school, flats and a medical clinic.

Canary Wharf Group is betting that workers are increasingly willing to jettison the traditional British commute through train and bus from suburban areas encircling the capital in favour of high-rise living in the metropolis.

Its build coincided with rapid growth in London's population, which would shortly hit 8.6 million people and grow a further 2.7 million by 2050, estimates from the Greater London Authority showed.

After a hiatus following the financial crisis, the number of new residential developments in London has started to grow again in recent years.

About 6,600 developments were launched in the first half of 2014, more than double the 3,000 units started two to three years ago, said investment management firm JLL.