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London’s Greenwich Peninsula: the 10,000-home regeneration scheme



Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore

The district is set for big changes as a Hong Kong developer looks to transform a riverfront site

Over the course of a year millions travel across London to watch their favourite artists perform at the 02 Arena, the busiest music venue in the world. And then, when the show is done, those same millions promptly leave again.

Most set off without casting so much as a backward glance at the area surrounding North Greenwich tube, where the former Millennium Dome-turned-performance space squats like an upturned spaceship. Aside from a scattering of chain restaurants, and despite considerable attempts at regeneration in the past, this peninsula jutting out of the river Thames still feels largely desolate.

CGI of housing at the Greenwich Peninsula development

©Knight Dragon/Lighterman

That now looks set to change. With the backing of London’s mayor Boris Johnson, 10,000 homes are being built by the Hong Kong property developer Knight Dragon over a 25-year period in one of London’s largest regeneration schemes. Greenwich Peninsula will offer residential space alongside 150 new shops and restaurants, 48 acres of open space and 1.6 miles of river frontage.

On September 20, Knight Dragon released the first 200 residential units with prices from £250,000 for a studio flat up to £1.7m for a 2,500 sq ft, three-bedroom waterfront penthouse with two balconies and a winter garden (completion is expected in early 2017). Agent Felicity J Lord is marketing a similar three-bedroom penthouse in the Seren Park Gardens gated development, Greenwich, with a 40ft private roof terrace featuring a Jacuzzi and outside bar, for £1.3m.

The area is “gathering momentum,” says Graham Lawes, head of sales for Jones Lang LaSalle in Greenwich, with the number of market appraisals and level of new instructions rising all the time. “The area has experienced a price correction over the past 12 months – since the boom of 2007, prices didn’t really start to appreciate until 2013, but we’re now seeing price increases of up to 20 to 25 per cent,” he says.

Knight Dragon has aspirations to see the 160-acre development transform into a bustling London district. “Really, it is a blank canvas,” says Sammy Lee, vice-president of Knight Dragon. “Ideally, residents can do all their living right on the Peninsula – whether shopping, dining, exercising, socialising [or] entertainment.”
Map of Greenwich peninsula, London
For now, cranes arch over what is largely wasteland but on a recent visit during one windswept afternoon the Peninsula seemed to be sputtering to life. And there are big ambitions.

A drab car park below the Thames cable car will become a sculptured garden. Knight Dragon hopes to encourage fairs and farmers’ markets to open along the Thames where there is at present just a muddy cycle path. There are plans for a 5km running track, a golf driving range, and a 1,600-pupil school. Not everything will be new: four 200-year-old cottages on the site will remain standing alongside the local pub the Pilot Inn.

Map of Greenwich peninsula, London

Still, the Royal Borough of Greenwich is known more for its historic sights than its new developments. Tourists pour into the old market town to visit the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory and the 19th-century Cutty Sark, one of the last tea clippers to be built, and which alone attracted more than 321,000 visitors last year. Handsome period properties in this area are highly sought after – a three-storey, 1,200 sq ft townhouse can fetch more than £1m, according to property advisers CBRE.

Yet the borough is also experiencing a building boom. In 2009, the Berkeley Group opened the first phase of the £1bn Kidbrooke Village development on what used to be the rundown, council-run Ferrier Estate. It hasn’t stopped there: since 2001, Royal Arsenal Riverside, a £1.2bn Berkeley development, has seen more than 2,000 new homes built on the site of the former ammunition factory. Another 3,000 are on the way.
Greenwich house prices chart
Investment in transport links has also increased the area’s desirability. Both the Docklands Light Railway and the North Greenwich Jubilee line provide fast journeys to Canary Wharf. River buses trundle down the water and the Thames cable car offers visitors a bird’s-eye view. In addition, the new east-west London railway route, Crossrail (due to open in 2018), will now serve Woolwich, where Royal Arsenal Riverside is located.

According to Lawes, the area still provides good value for money compared with other parts of London. “It’s still relatively unknown as a destination to invest,” he says. Karl Whitman, executive director at Berkeley, agrees, estimating that local properties are about half the price of like-for-like stock in southwest London.

Greenwich house prices chart

While Greenwich does have a fairly well established high-end market – Jones Lang LaSalle is advertising a six-bedroom detached Victorian house in West Grove for £3.2m – young professionals who are now being drawn to the borough will have to stick to newer developments.

It is this younger crowd that is helping to encourage grassroots creativity and a cultural scene in the area.

The developer hopes to see Greeenwich Peninsula transform into a bustling London district

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Greenwich resident James Yeoman, 25, believes that the area is up and coming. He and his girlfriend, 28-year-old banker Emma Weatley, moved to Royal Arsenal Riverside last year. They rent a 1,500 sq ft, two-bedroom, split-level flat in a restored historic building for £1,600 a month – the same price it cost them for a 900 sq ft apartment in Limehouse, Tower Hamlets. If they wanted to buy in the same area, there is a three-bedroom apartment available for £520,000 with a balcony and access to an on-site gym.

The area also offers opportunity. In 2013 Yeoman launched the boutique Hop Stuff Brewery minutes away from his home, where just three members of staff produce up to 160 casks a week of four different beers (including Arsenal Pale Ale). He is not alone. It is hoped that regeneration will not only provide more affordable housing and boost construction work, but will also become an economic driver. Greenwich Peninsula estimates that development could provide as many as 20,000 permanent jobs.

Local Londoners are being offered the opportunity to buy an apartment ahead of anyone else

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And, of course, jobs mean people. Key to Greenwich Peninsula’s success will be balancing those buying to live and investors buying to let. By selling the first phase of flats only in London, Knight Dragon is making a “conscious statement” says Selby. “Historically, developers have used Asia to presale their developments but Knight Dragon is saying that these apartments are for local Londoners and they are being offered the opportunity to buy an apartment ahead of anyone else.”

Some, anticipating increased footfall, are already setting up shop. This summer Shunt – a collective of artists who curate live performances in unusual spaces – started to operate out of old shipping containers overlooking the river. Greenwich Peninsula now hopes many more will come – and not just to visit the 02.


Buying guide

The redevelopment of Greenwich Peninsula will create 10,000 new homes and 3.5m sq ft of commercial space

CBRE estimates that property in Greenwich costs about £600 per sq ft compared with £1,000 per sq ft in Nine Elms, southwest London

In 2012 the Queen made Greenwich a royal borough for her diamond jubilee. It has been a World Heritage site since 1997

London City Airport is a 10-minute journey via public transport from North Greenwich; Heathrow airport is 55 minutes away and Gatwick is 45 minutes

There were 20,237 crimes in Greenwich reported to police in the 12 months to August this year, compared with 692,134 for Greater London as a whole

What you can buy for . . .

£500,000 A three-bedroom apartment at Royal Arsenal Riverside with a balcony

£1m A three-bedroom, semi-detached house with a garden close to the DLR

£3.5m A five-bedroom, Queen Anne-style, Grade-II listed house fronting Greenwich Park

Photographs: English Heritage Photo Library/Bridgeman Images; Knight Dragon/Lighterman; Steve Vidler/Alamy; Alan Copson/AWL Images

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