Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf is a large business and shopping development in London, located in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, centred on the old West India Docks in the London Docklands.

Rivalling London's traditional financial centre, The Square Mile, Canary Wharf contains the UK's three tallest buildings: One Canada Square (sometimes known as the Canary Wharf Tower) at 235.1 m (774 ft); followed by 8 Canada Square and the Citigroup Centre, both at 199.5 m (654 ft). [ [ United Kingdom - ] ] However, according to the official Canary Wharf website, [ [ ] ] [ [ ] ] [ [ ] ] One Canada Square is 800 ft (244 m).


Canary Wharf is built on the site of the old West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs. From 1802 to 1980, the area was one of the busiest docks in the world, with at one point 50,000 employed.

During World War II, the docks area was bombed heavily and nearly all the original warehouses were destroyed or badly damaged. After a brief recovery in the 1950s, the port industry began to decline. Containerisation, a limit of convert|6000|LT|MT|0|lk=on imposed by the dock gates, and a lack of flexibility made the upstream docks less viable than the Port of London dock at Tilbury, and by 1980 these docks were closed. Many traditional local industries closed, with thousands out of work and the convert|295|acre|km2|1 West India Docks lay derelict, and largely unused. [ [ "West India Docks (1803-1980) "] (Port Cities) accessed 22 July 2008]

The project to revitalise the convert|8|sqmi|km2|0 of derelict London docklands began in 1981 with the establishment of the London Docklands Development Corporation by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher. Initially regeneration of the area was focused on small-scale, light industrial schemes. This inward investment was encouraged by low rents, and a remission from business rates.

Canary Wharf itself takes its name from No. 10 Warehouse (30 Shed) of the South Quay Import Dock. This was built in 1952 for Fruit Lines Ltd, a subsidiary of Fred Olsen Lines for the Mediterranean and Canary Island fruit trade. At their request, the quay and warehouse were given the name "Canary Wharf". The company moved to Millwall Docks, in 1970. Between 1981–89 this warehouse was converted to television studios, known as Limehouse Studios. At one time this was the largest single project within the LDDC. These were sold to Olympia and York in 1988 for £25m to expand their own development at One Canada Square to the west of the Docklands Light Railway. [ "The West India Docks: The buildings: warehouses", Survey of London: volumes 43 and 44: Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs (1994), pp. 284-300] accessed 22 July 2008]

The origins of the idea for Canary Wharf

In 1984 the restaurateurs the Roux Brothers were looking for several thousand square feet of space to prepare pre-cooked meals. The late Michael von Clemm, chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) and also chairman of Roux Restaurants, was invited for lunch by the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) on the boat "Res Nova" moored alongside Shed 31 at Canary Wharf, to promote the idea of this food packaging factory being based on the Isle of Dogs. Von Clemm came from Boston and when he looked through the porthole at Shed 31, a simple brick-concrete infill, he commented that it reminded him of the warehouses in Boston harbour which had been converted into back offices and small business premises. Reg Ward, at the time LDDC Chief Executive, remembers him suddenly leaning back and saying: "I do not know why we do not go for a shed like 31 as a convert|200000|sqft|m2|-4|abbr=on back office." [A "back office" is where a financial institution carries out administration and their "settlement" activities - i.e. arrangements for the exchange of cash and securities are carried out]

This led on to discussions at CSFB's offices, during which their American property adviser G Ware Travelstead, said: "We're asking ourselves the wrong question. Of course we can take Shed 31 and convert it into a back office, but we have spent the last five years courting at the Court of the City of London for a new site for a new configuration of building without success. The question is: 'Can we move our front office to the Isle of Dogs?'." [A "front" office is where a financial institution carries out its "trading activities" (before electronic trading, those for different institutions had been historically proximate to each other)]

This idea came from a basic need. The Big Bang deregulation of financial services in London had radically changed the way merchant banks operated. Instead of the small, corridor and office based buildings occupied in the traditional square mile, the demand was now for large floor-plate, open plan space which could be used as a trading floor. The Corporation of the City of London had been resisting such development, preferring instead to conserve its historical architecture and views. So banks like CSFB had spent years trying without success to locate suitable space close to the financial heart of London.

At the meeting, Travelstead's idea provoked dissent. Reg Ward, however, agreed with Travelstead and pointed out that Citibank had successfully moved into mid-town New York and had also moved from the central business district in Hong Kong, drawing other users with it. (Eventually it would do the same in Docklands, constructing its own building, Citigroup Centre at Canary Wharf). So Von Clemm and Travelstead decided to take this idea on, committing CSFB to both fund and occupy the new development, and persuading another US Bank with the same issues about space, Morgan Stanley, to join them. Travelstead managed to persuade the LDDC and the Government of Margaret Thatcher that a new financial services district of ten million square feet, located at the old West India Docks, was viable. He was the first to propose a single main towerFact|date=April 2008, which later became One Canada Square. He proposed building the project as part of a consortium led by his own company The Travelstead Group, together with CSFB and Morgan Stanley. He also brought in Canadian developer Olympia and York, who had recently completed the World Financial Center and Battery Park developments in New York. However, Travelstead was unable to fund his project and in late 1986, CSFB and Morgan Stanley pulled out of the consortium, effectively pulling the plug. However, they remained interested in occupying the development if someone else were to build it. [ [ LDDC history pages: The Development of Transport in London Docklands - Part I: The Chronological Story ] ]

On 17 July 1987, Olympia and York Canary Wharf Investments and the LDDC signed the Master Building Agreement for a (1.2 million sq.m (12.2 million sq ft) £3 billion international financial centre. The price paid for the 20 acres (8 ha.) of the 71 acre (28.75 ha.) site which the LDDC owned was equivalent to £1 million an acre of which £8 million was payable in cash and £12 million was represented by the developer's commitment to various site works of public benefit.

Local opposition to the development

The idea of a new financial services district was not popular with local residents or their representatives on the Isle of Dogs. Residents' groups including the Association of Island Communities led by individuals such as Ted Johns did not feel that they had been part of the consultation process and did not see that local people would gain any benefit from the development. The expectation was that the development would provide no local jobs or transport improvements.However, over the course of the development relations with the local community have improved and more than 7,000 local (Tower Hamlets) residents now work at Canary Wharf.

During a bitter campaign against the LDDC's plans, the residents made their voices heard and gained concessions. One memorable stunt took place at the ground-breaking ceremony for Canary Wharf. With dignitaries and government ministers in attendance the developers were launching their plans. Local campaigners released a flock of sheep from Mudchute Farm into the audience, followed by thousands of live bees. The result was dramatic and local residents' demands were given attention.

In 1997, some residents living on the Isle of Dogs launched a lawsuit against Canary Wharf Ltd. which reached the House of Lords ("Hunter v. Canary Wharf" [1997] AC 665). They sued for private nuisance because the tower caused interference with television signals from the BBC transmitter in Crystal Palace until a relay transmitter was built to overcome these problems. The court found against the appellants (Hunter and others) as private nuisance generally lies for things emanating from a land, not the blocking of something.

Phase one: 1988–91

Construction of Canary Wharf began in 1988, with phase one completed in 1991. Critically, Olympia and York agreed to meet half the cost of the proposed Jubilee Line extension, seen as vital to the long-term viability of the project. When topped out in 1990, One Canada Square became the UK's tallest building and a powerful symbol of the regeneration of Docklands.

The other buildings completed in Phase one include thoseFact|date=April 2008 around Westferry Circus and Cabot Square, and two either side of One Canada Square, now housing the Financial Services Authority and Thomson Reuters.

Property market collapse

The London commercial property market collapsed in the early 1990s, and Olympia and York Canary Wharf Limited filed for bankruptcy in May 1992. Tenant demand evaporated despite the availability of special rent concessions for early occupiers and Jubilee Line work had not started yet, leaving the development accessible only by the under-specified Docklands Light Railway. The scheme went into administration.

One Canada Square stood with its top half in darkness, symbolic of the difficulties that had befallen not only Canary Wharf, but also the entire UK commercial property market.

Rescue and recovery

In December 1995 an international consortium, backed by the former owners of Olympia & York and other investors, bought the scheme. The new company was called Canary Wharf Limited, and later became Canary Wharf Group, which listed on the London Stock Exchange and later rose to become one of the UK's largest property companies. Paul Reichmann became Chairman again. At the time Canary Wharf came out of administration, its working population was around 13,000 and well over half the office space was emptyFact|date=April 2008.

However, recovery in the property market generally, coupled with continuing demand for high floor-plate grade A office accommodation, slowly improved the level of interest in the estate. A critical event in the recovery of Canary Wharf was the much-delayed start of work on the Jubilee Line, which the government wanted ready for the Millennium celebrations. In 1998 the Financial Services Authority moved to Canary Wharf, signalling a shift in the centre of gravity within the financial services sector.

From this point on tenants and workers began to see Canary Wharf as an alternative to traditional office locations. Not only were the remaining phases completed, but new phases were built.

Phase two: 1997–2002

Phase two of Canary Wharf consisted of the construction of the HSBC Tower and Citigroup Centre headquarters buildings, followed by Heron Quays.Fact|date=April 2008

From 15,000 in 1999 just before the opening of the Jubilee Line, its working population in 2004 had more than quadrupled to 63,000. Around this time Canary Wharf Group, the scheme's owner became, briefly, the UK's largest property company.

In March 2004 Canary Wharf Group plc was taken over by a consortium of investors led by Morgan Stanley using a vehicle named Songbird Estates. Songbird is now listed on the London Stock Exchange's AIM rather than on the Main Market.

Present day

Canary Wharf tenants include major banks, such as Credit Suisse, HSBC, Citigroup, Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Northern Trust, and Barclays, law firms such as Clifford Chance, as well as major news media and service firms, including Thomson Reuters, and the "Daily Mirror". It has some technology companies, too, including Infosys. It has also gained more tenants from the public sector including the Financial Services Authority and 2012 Olympic Games organisers "LOCOG" and the "ODA".

At the end of 2006 the official number of people employed on the estate was 90,302, of whom around 25% live in the surrounding five boroughs. Increasingly Canary Wharf is becoming a shopping destination, particularly with the opening of the Jubilee Place shopping centre in 2004, taking the total number of shops to more than 200 and increasing employment in retail to around 4,500. About 500,000 people each week shop at Canary Wharf.

The future

Plans are well underway for Canary Wharf to more than double in size again.

In 2006 the company announced that State Street Corporation, KPMG, and Bear Stearns had signed deals to move to new HQ buildings on the estate. In 2007 they were joined by FIMALAC, the parent company of Fitch the ratings agency who took the building next to KPMG. The new State Street, Bear Stearns, Fitch and KPMG Headquarters buildings are currently under construction with work expected to complete in 2009.

Planning permission has been granted for the Riverside South development of two towers and a large floor-plate central building linking them, designed by Richard Rogers Partnership (work began in April 2007) and

In March 2008 Canary Wharf obtained planning permission for a large building of 40 storeys also designed by Richard Rogers Partnership at Heron Quays West. The site is currently occupied by a low-level 1980s development of small office buildings.

Both Riverside South and Heron Quays West are designed for occupation by large banking tenants.

Canary Wharf still has planning permission under the old enterprise zone for one additional building of approx 15 storeys next to State Street at Churchill Place, although a larger building might be possible on this site.

Additionally there is planning permission for two large towers and a mid-rise building designed by Cesar Pelli at North Quay, although this site will have to wait until the Crossrail project is completed.

Along with the development of the convert|7000000|sqft|m2|-3|abbr=on Wood Wharf project to the east, in which Canary Wharf is a partner (with Ballymore and British Waterways) and neighbouring future sites, these represent another potential convert|15000000|sqft|m2 of development, doubling the existing area of the estate.

The SkyscraperNews website [ [ Skyscraper News Google Earth ] ] describes some of the new building projects underway with a 3d Google Earth model. The number of people working in Canary Wharf is set to rise to 100,000 by 2009 (CWG estimate) and to 200,000 by 2025 (according to the Mayor's London Plan and DCLG's Thames Gateway Interim Development Plan).

Around Canary Wharf, there is also significant commercial and residential development in other Docklands areas such as Silvertown Quays, [ [ Silvertown Quays London - Part of the Thames Gateway London initiative ] ] Greenwich Peninsula, and on the Isle of Dogs at Arrowhead Quay, Crossharbour and Millharbour.

Tallest under construction, approved and proposed

This is a list of Towers U/C, approved and proposed in Canary Wharf


Canary Wharf is a major transport hub for connections to central London and elsewhere.

* Docklands Light Railway runs services from Canary Wharf DLR station, opened in 1991, and Heron Quays DLR station.
* Canary Wharf tube station opened on the newly extended Jubilee Line in 2000, providing London Underground services to central London and Stratford.
* River boat connections from Canary Wharf Pier are managed by London River Services and operated by Thames Clipper. Services include a regular commuter catamaran which goes to Greenwich and the O2 in the east, and to the City of London and Embankment, as well as a frequent ferry service to Rotherhithe.
* London City Airport is a few miles further to the east and can be accessed by bus, taxi and, since December 2005, DLR.

The sustainable transport charity Sustrans has proposed the construction of a bicycle and pedestrian swing bridge from Canary Wharf to Rotherhithe, and a feasibility study is underway. [ [ Sustrans Open routes in London ] ]

Canary Wharf is one of the most important stations on the proposed Crossrail project, which would link the estate with Heathrow in the West and the Thames Gateway in the East. The Crossrail station, if built, will be situated in the North Dock and linked to the underground malls.


The most immediate impact of Canary Wharf has been to substantially increase land values in the surrounding area. This means that the Isle of Dogs, which had previously been seen as suited only for low density light industrial development, has been up-rated. Projects like South Quay Plaza and West India Quay are a direct consequence of this. More recently, Canary Wharf has opened the path for other developments in East London such as Stratford City and Greenwich Peninsula. It has given fresh impetus to already well established residential construction, especially of owner occupier apartments and townhouses.

At the metropolitan level, Canary Wharf was, and remains, a direct challenge to the primacy of the City of London as the UK's principal centre for the finance industry. Relations between Canary Wharf and the City of London Corporation have frequently been strained, with the City accusing Canary Wharf of poaching tenants, and Canary Wharf accusing the City of not catering to occupier needs.

Canary Wharf's national significance comes from what it replaces: the former docks were, as recently as 1961, the busiest in the world. They served huge industrial areas of east London and beyond. Both the docks and much of that industrial capacity are gone, with employment shifting to the kind of service industry accommodated in office buildings. In this respect, Canary Wharf could be cited as the strongest single symbol of the changed economic geography of the United Kingdom.

Its symbolic importance was demonstrated on 9 February 1996 when the IRA detonated a bomb near South Quay DLR station, killing two people, destroying the South Quay Plaza development and damaging several nearby buildings. The bomb ended a 17-month ceasefire.

In 2007, the project made headlines again when the tower at 8 Canada Place sold for £1.1 billion, setting a new record for commercial real estate in London. [ [ Canary Wharf singing a red-hot tune ] ]

Recently, Canary Wharf has gained unwelcome notoriety by banning a demonstration highlighting poor pay for office cleaners. Director Ken Loach, whose film "Bread and Roses" inspired the march, denounced the ban as "despicable".

References and notes

External links

* [ A fly-around of the future Canary Wharf]
* [ Canary Wharf - what's on]
* [ Canary Wharf Group plc]
* [ Canary Wharf Offices]
* [ Canary Wharf projects on Skyscrapernews]
* [,+London&ie=UTF8&ll=51.504108,-0.018089&spn=0.042527,0.173035&t=h&om=1 Google Maps Satellite Photo]
* [ Canary Wharf Photography gallery]
* [ Live Maps Bird's Eye View]
* [,,1328420,00.html Police stifle Canary Wharf protest - The Guardian]
* [ Time-lapse video]

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