Plans to transform a 35-acre site at Royal Albert Dock into a third financial centre for London have been eight years in the making.
ABP has now broken ground on the site in Newham and on Thursday, November 10, signed a deal with Asian investors to fund the majority of the £1.7billion project.
We chatted to the man charged with making sure the vision become a reality, ABP’s chief operating officer John Miu, to find out his thoughts on Brexit, Canary Wharf and the future of east London.
How does ABP see this development working with Canary Wharf?
When ABP came to London we could see the demand for more Asian businesses to come to the financial capital of Europe. But we couldn’t see where they wanted to go.
The City is mainly for the UK and European business, Canary Wharf is mainly for north American businesses. Asian businesses would like somewhere they can feel comfortable and they can make home.
Together with Excel , London City Airport , they will be able to expand their business to Europe. Crossrail means Custom House will be only one stop from Canary Wharf so they are linked. But we are building a different product to Canary Wharf. It mostly has buildings of 20,000 sq ft plus. We are building much smaller spaces to suit the market that wants their own building, not just a floor. And we are much lower and less dense than Canary Wharf, with five to 12 storey buildings near the waterfront.
Will the businesses moving in complement or compete with those in Canary Wharf?
Business is always complementary.
How many businesses will be based there?
Hundreds of many sizes. Some of maybe five or 10 people taking 300 sq ft, some taking 100,000 sq ft. We are expecting to start with the smaller requirements but also have a start-up incubator to help them. ABP is not just a developer, this requires more than a developer. We want to provide a platform to help them so they can expand and grow.
Have any businesses confirmed yet?
Out of 650,000 sq ft in the first phase we have 63% already pre-sold.
How are works progressing?
We have started with the utilities. UKPN (UK Power Networks) have started their power supply, sufficient for the first phase. There is always a shortage of power in the Docks. We are now working with BT to finalise their work.
When will building work start?
March 2017. But there is still a huge amount of infrastructure work needed.
Has there been any impact on the project from Brexit?
The only issue is uncertainty. But I see in the long run it will be beneficial to the UK as a whole, economically and competitively. We can see from that and from America that the world is changing and evolving. It will be market driven rather than politically driven which is a good thing for the UK as it will be able to export more to China. It is a free market so it is about how you trade more with partners and have more freedom.
Where will the project be in 2018?
The first phase of 100,000 sq ft will be ready. The waterside passage will be complete, two thirds of the High Street and the centre square and Beckton Park station will be done.
What is next?
We have got outline planning for the whole 4.7milion sq ft site already. So our aim is to submit detailed planning for phase 2 and launch it to the market very quickly, as soon as the later part of next year. In there we will have residential, more retail and office space.
What brands do you envisage being there?
I want to see more of a fusion. There are too many high streets in the UK that look the same and have the same brands. We would like to introduce many brands from Asia but we are talking to many brands from Europe as well that see this as a way of breaking into the Chinese market. There is nothing like that of our scale that we know of in Europe.
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