for Property in Canary Wharf
and the Isle of
in Tower Hamlets, London, England,
is a large business development on the Isle of Dogs,
centred on the old West India Docks in the London
Rivalling London's traditional
financial centre, The Square Mile, Canary Wharf
contains the UK's three tallest buildings: One
Canada Square (commonly known as the Canary Wharf
Tower or simply Canary Wharf) at 235.1 m; and
the HSBC Tower and the Citigroup Centre joint
second tallest at 199.5 m.
of Canary Wharf
seen from a high-level walkway on Tower BridgeCanary
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. Canary Wharf
itself takes its name from the sea trade with
the Canary Islands, whose name comes from the
dogs (Latin canis) which the Spaniards found there,
producing the linguistic coincidence of trade
between the Dog Islands and the Isle of Dogs.
During WWII, 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
and a lack of flexibility made the central London
docks less viable than out-of-town sites like
Felixstowe and Harwich, and by 1980 the docks
Thousands were out of work and a huge area of
the Docklands lay in ruins - a testament to the
changing world economy.
The project to revitalise the eight square miles
of derelict London docks began in 1981 with the
establishment of the London Docklands Development
Corporation by the government of Margaret Thatcher.
Initially redevelopment was focussed on small-scale,
light industrial schemes and Canary Wharf's largest
occupier was Limehouse Studios, a TV production
company.Canary Wharf can be seen from Dartford
The Idea of Canary Wharf is born
Canary Wharf Tower and the HSBC World Headquarters,
viewed from the western end of West India QuayIn
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 up 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 200,000 sq ft back up office."
This led on to discussions at CSFB's offices,
during which their American property adviser G
Ware Travelstead, raised his hand and said: "We're
asking ourselves the wrong question. Of course
we can take Shed 31 and convert it into a back
up 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?"
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
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
tower, 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
On 17 July 1987, Olympia and York Canary Wharf
Investments and the LDDC signed the Master Building
Agreement for a 12.2 million sq ft (1.2 million
sq.m.) £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 Canary Wharf development
However, 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.
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 herd of sheep from Mudchute
Farm into the audience, followed by thousands
of live bees. The result was chaos, but again
the concerns of local residents had stolen the
Other campaign tactics used during the 1980s
included the brief Unilateral Declaration of Independence
(UDI) by the Isle of Dogs, with Ted Johns installed
as President, and the roads onto the island blocked
for one week.
However, over the course of the development relations
with the local community have improved and more
than 3,000 local residents now work at Canary
Phase One: 1988-1991
Docklands Light Railway station and entrance to
underground stationConstruction 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
those around Westferry Circus and Cabot Square,
and two either side of One Canada Square, now
housing the Financial Services Authority and Reuters.
Property market collapse
The world property market collapsed in the early
1990s. Tenant demand evaporated and significantly
the Jubilee Line work had not started by the time
Olympia & York collapsed, 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 Group. At this
time its working population was around 13,000
and well over half the office space was empty.
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. 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
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.
From 15,000 in 1999 just before the opening of
the Jubilee line, its working population in 2004
had risen by more than 300% 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.
The present day at Canary
viewed from Shad ThamesCanary Wharf tenants include
major banks, such as Credit Suisse, HSBC, Citigroup,
Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America,
and Barclays, as well as major news media and
service firms, including The Daily Telegraph,
Reuters, the Daily Mirror and the Naseba Group.
It has also gained more tenants from the public
sector including Financial Services Authority
and 2012 Olympic Games organisers LOCOG and The
Olympic Delivery Authority.
At the beginning of 2006 the official number
of people employed on the estate was 78,000 of
which 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 mall 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 of
Plans are well underway for Canary Wharf to more
than double in size again. Planning permission
has been granted for the Riverside South development
of two towers designed by Richard Rogers Partnership
and in early 2006 the company announced that State
Street Corporation, KPMG, and Bear Stearns had
either signed deals or were in negotiation to
move to new buildings on the estate.
Along with the development of Wood Wharf to the
east, in which Canary Wharf is a partner along
with Ballymore and British Waterways, this represents
an additional 7 million square feet of development.
The SkyscraperNews website 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 90,000 by 2008, and to
200,000 by 2020.
Like Canary Wharf, there is also significant
development in neighborhood areas such as Silvertown
Canary Wharf tube station (Jubilee Line)Canary
Wharf is connected to central London via the Canary
Wharf DLR station, opened in 1991, and the extension
of the Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf tube station
in 2000. A river boat service from Canary Waterside
connects Canary Wharf to central London and Greenwich.
Heron Quays DLR station is also nearby. London
City Airport is a few miles further to the east
and can be accessed by bus, taxi and, since December
The significance of Canary Wharf
Canary Wharf is not just an office scheme. It
has had impact at the local level, at the metropolitan
level and, to a lesser extent, at the national
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 middle
class 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 Corporation of London 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 bleakly demonstrated
on February 9, 1996 when the IRA detonated a bomb
at 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.
Recently, Canary Wharf has gained unwelcome notoriety
by banning a demonstration highlighting poor pay
for office cleaners. Ken Loach whose film
Bread and Roses inspired the march denounced
the ban as "despicable".
The Radiohead song "Fake Plastic Trees"
is about Canary Wharf - although the trees on
the estate are real.
Films such as Alfie, Batman Begins, The Constant
Gardener, Basic Instinct 2, Johnny English, 28
Days Later and Layer Cake have been filmed at
Canary Wharf - see Isle of Dogs entry for details.
In the Doctor Who episode Army of Ghosts, Canary
Wharf is shown to actually be the headquarters
of the Torchwood Institute. People on the inside
know it as Torchwood Tower. Canary Wharf also
provides the setting for a substantial part of
Craig Hinton's 1995 novel Millennial Rites, featuring
the sixth Doctor and Mel Bush.