Work to transform the Docklands in Wapping into the “Covent Garden of the East” is underway.
Three new buildings are taking shape on the site off Pennington Street, once home to Rupert Murdoch’s News International.
The offices, where Piers Morgan and Rebekah Brooks once edited red-top tabloids, have been swept aside to be replaced by St George’s London Dock development of 1,800 homes and more than 200,000sq ft of boutique shops, independent restaurants, artisan workshops and a secondary school for 1,200 pupils.
The heart of the site, whose masterplan was designed by architects Patel Taylor, will be Gauging Square – named after a dock measuring process – which bosses want to become “one of the capital’s great public squares”, with an ambitious water feature inspired by Le Miroir d’Eau, the world’s largest reflecting pool in Bordeaux.
The history of the site is being retained through the 350m long, Grade II listed, two-storey Pennington Street Warehouse, which dates back to 1804 and was originally used for the storage of tobacco, wine, and brandy.
St George, part of the Berkeley Group, bought the site for £150million in 2012 and secured planning permission in 2014.
Managing director Craig Carson said: “When we first bought the site, this building is what we fell in love with.
“It has not been very well loved by News International who used it for their glossy magazines and as a service area, so there’s a lot we are trying to put back.
“Everyone focuses on the last 30 years but the history is a lot richer than that and stretches back a lot further.”
Historic England has agreed St George can create three pathways through the width of the warehouse and voids to open up its levels as well as a glass atrium.
Craig said: “We want to open up the site and create access with pedestrian routes. This is really going to be the Covent Garden of the east.”
Part of the building is already leased as 90 affordable artists’ studios to Bow Arts and the first permanent commercial occupier, architecture practice JTP, will move in next year.
Craig said they hoped to attract quirky bars, restaurants and boutique cinemas to the site and added: “We absolutely want people to come forward with creative ideas for what it can be used for.”
The first phase of the 10-year scheme is already on the market, with 85% of the properties sold and the first home-owners due to move into the Clipper Wharf building at the end of 2016. Homes are also available in the Admiral Wharf building and Alexander Wharf building.
The scheme, which neighbours St Katharine Docks, is the first in Tower Hamlets to offer a shared-ownership scheme for first-time buyers who live or work in the borough without any rent to pay. Buyers pay a capped sum for a one-bedroom home with Tower Hamlets Council holding the covenant and setting out the conditions of resale and percentage discount.
The first phase of these homes are all sold but more will be released in later phases with 224 available in total. The development also has 54 affordable homes.
All the apartments are kitted out with air-conditioning and integrated speakers with touchpad control systems and services such as wi-fi and Sky television will be set up before you move in.
Residents will have access to on-site hotel-style facilities, including a 24-hour concierge service, residents’ lounge, managed car parking and a private health and fitness suite including, a gymnasium, 20m swimming pool, sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, treatment room, squash court, 12-seater cinema and 3D virtual golf suite.
One-bed properties start at £869,950, two-bed are £1.1million-1.5million, three-bed £1.6million and the two Alexander Wharf penthouses are circa £4million.
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