Canary Wharf is an incredible example of urban regeneration. Over the last 30 years, it has been transformed from a run-down disregarded part of London, comprising marshland and redundant nineteenth century docks, to become one of the major financial centres of the world. It has now been suggested that it’s seemingly inexorable growth means it will inevitably eventually match and then merge with its rival centre – the City of London set in the ancient ‘Square Mile’ three miles to the west.
The history of the development of the area is well-documented. The Government in 1981 set up the London Docklands Development Corporation, after the docks that had been the envy of the world proved too small to handle the new container ships. But it required the initiative, energy and drive of a few key individuals to get the project started and seen through to conclusion: Michael von Clemm of Credit Suisse and Paul Reichman of Olympia & York being preeminent.
Number 1 Canada Square, until the Shard the tallest building in the country, opened in 1991 and despite setbacks such as the collapse in property prices and the delay in bringing in the Jubilee Line, Canary Wharf now contains around 16,000,000 square feet of office and retail space, where around 120,000 people work – similar to the entire population of Cambridge. It is home to the world or European headquarters of numerous major banks, professional services firms and media organisations including Barclays, Citigroup, Clifford Chance, Credit Suisse, EY, Fitch Ratings, HSBC, Infosys, J.P. Morgan, KPMG, MetLife, Moody’s, Morgan Stanley, RBC, S&P Global, Skadden, State Street and Thomson Reuters.
It is an exciting and energising environment and teems with life 7 days a week. As well as excellent shopping centres there is an increasing number of very popular cafes, bars and restaurants, set in an environment that combines ample green space and large areas of open water with an almost sci-fi blockbuster vibe – indeed several films including ‘Star Wars - Rogue One’ have used it as a location.
Ample green space in Canary Wharf - here to be seen on one of our Canary Wharf Tours
The future presents perhaps an even more impressive prospect than the amazing story of the last 30 years. With the Elizabeth Line (formerly Crossrail) due to open partially by the end of this year and fully by the end of 2019, the journey to Heathrow, for example, will only take 40 minutes. The development of the area known as Wood Wharf is underway and this will bring an additional 2,000,000 square feet of office space and over 3,000 new homes – including the landmark One Park Drive from the architects Herzog and de Meuron. Ambitious talk of having a total of 25,000,000 square feet of office space by the late 2020s does not seem too outrageous. Already, Canary Wharf is 50 percent larger than the financial centre of Frankfurt.
This brings us to the recent claim from Sir George Iacobescu, chairman and CEO of Canary Wharf Group, that the logical progression is a merger with the City – still the premier financial centre in the world. He predicts the development of a vast business super-hub stretching from Holborn to Docklands and points to the continued regeneration of ‘corridor’ areas such as Wapping, which will gradually blur the boundaries between them. He suggests that in order to compete successfully, especially post-Brexit, the two rivals need to collaborate and build on each other’s strengths, and present a united vision to the world. This seems a sensible way forward. The City is nothing if not pragmatic but it will not give up its unique traditions and place in history that easily.
If you would like to experience this vibrant part of London for yourself and learn more about the development of one of the world’s most important financial centres, then please contact us to talk about booking one of our popular tours of Canary Wharf.