Clear­ing up the mighty Thames

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

the ar­chi­tec­ture critic Rowan Moore as “the most em­bar­rass­ingly dis­mal cor­ner of cen­tral Lon­don”. Back then, the idea of a Ver­sace-branded, 50-storey build­ing with one-bed­room apart­ments start­ing from £780,000 would have been un­think­able. Now, Aykon Lon­don One is one of sev­eral flashy high-rises on the sky­line.

Other Vaux­hall schemes in­clude Riverlight from Berke­ley, a com­plex of six res­i­den­tial build­ings with river­side gar­dens, a pier and quay­side; it has now sold out. Across the road is Em­bassy Gar­dens, where con­struc­tion is well un­der way on three ac­com­mo­da­tion blocks. Be­tween two of them, a trans­par­ent swim­ming pool will even­tu­ally be in­stalled.

The huge tow­ers lin­ing the river at Nine Elms will be flanked by the Lin­ear Park, a rib­bon of green space run­ning be­tween the de­vel­op­ment sites, from Bat­tersea Park to Vaux­hall Cross, and in­spired by New York’s High Line. In ad­di­tion, a new sec­tion of the Thames path will edge the full length of the Nine Elms de­vel­op­ment site. Off these new pub­lic spa­ces will be leisure and re­tail fa­cil­i­ties and event spa­ces.

Af­ter years of de­lays, plans for 8 Al­bert Em­bank­ment, the for­mer head­quar­ters of the Lon­don Fire Brigade, are tak­ing shape. The Grade II listed build­ing is be­ing re­de­vel­oped by U+I, with the cur­rent pro­posal in­clud­ing a new fire sta­tion, mu­seum, ho­tel and 400 homes. The plan also in­cludes three new pub­lic squares and a rooftop restau­rant.

Fur­ther along, developer St James is build­ing three apart­ment blocks on Al­bert Em­bank­ment, in­clud­ing Mu­rano, which is al­ready sold out, and the Cor­niche, a Nor­man Fos­ter-de­signed scheme where prices start at £2.7mil­lion. Along­side the res­i­den­tial build­ings, the 1.6-acre site will have more space open to the pub­lic, giv­ing ac­cess to the river.

The big draw to this part of the Thames isn’t just the water­front lo­ca­tion but the views to­wards the Houses of Par­lia­ment. Though there have been con­cerns about the num­ber of high­rise build­ings on this stretch, the ben­e­fit is the re­gen­er­a­tion of the river­side walks and clean­ing up of in­dus­trial sites that once blighted this area.

Recla­ma­tion of the river­side for homes and recre­ation is tak­ing place all along the Thames. The for­mer Tate & Lyle of­fices, Sugar Quay, to the west of the Tower of Lon­don, is be­ing reimag­ined by Bar­ratt Lon­don as Land­mark Place. Along with 165 flats priced from £1.2mil­lion, the glass-fronted build­ing will have sweep­ing views to­wards South­wark and Tower Bridge. A re­fur­bished water­front board­walk and pier that has been closed to the pub­lic since 2004 will also be re­opened. To the west, Mount Anvil’s Queen’s Wharf, in Ham­mer­smith, has built a river­side walk­way that will con­nect Ham­mer­smith Bridge with the Thames path for the first time.

Fur­ther east, Bark­ing River­side, once home to heavy in­dus­try, is find­ing new life as a hub of ur­ban re­de­vel­op­ment. “The river­side here had three power sta­tions from the Twen­ties, then it all be­came derelict, so lo­cals didn’t re­ally con­nect with the Thames for recre­ation or leisure pur­poses,” says David Watkin­son, di­rec­tor of ur­ban plan­ning and de­sign at Bark­ing River­side. “I was sur­prised there was so lit­tle aware­ness of the river, even among peo­ple liv­ing just half a mile away.”

Up to 10,800 homes are planned on the 443-acre site, with 1,100 al­ready built. It is open­ing up more than a mile of river­front, which in­cludes habi­tats for wa­ter birds and other wildlife. More than 40 species of birds have been spot­ted there, as well as wa­ter voles and bom­bardier bee­tles. The longstalled project, which is also get­ting con­nected to over­ground rail ser­vices, is now jointly run by the Lon­don mayor’s of­fice and hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tion L&Q. Some orig­i­nal build­ings re­main, such as the power sta­tion switch rooms, which will be re­pur­posed as com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties. The de­vel­op­ers are also keen to bring the orig­i­nal wharf and jetty back into pub­lic use and are in talks with Thames Clip­per to run a reg­u­lar ser­vice.

“The land from the power sta­tion to the river is the size of the South Bank; it’s a tremen­dous as­set for the area,” adds Watkin­son.

The de­vel­op­ers have held events to en­cour­age lo­cal res­i­dents to ap­pre­ci­ate and un­der­stand the Thames and its wet­lands.

“One of our unique sell­ing points is the river. It’s also more af­ford­able, and of­fers more space here than many ar­eas of Lon­don,” says Watkin­son. “We’re see­ing peo­ple look­ing to move out to where they can still ac­cess the city but live in a greener en­vi­ron­ment. Lon­don­ers are fi­nally re­dis­cov­er­ing the Thames and liv­ing by it.”

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