Friday 29 May 2015

Spotlight on Shoreditch: Full Circle

An unprecedented construction boom is set to strike Shoredtich in the next few years, transforming (perhaps beyond repair) our beloved neighbourhood.

That concerns Alternative London, deeply.

On Shoreditch High Street alone, there are five such exclusive residential and retail developments under the Hackney and Tower Hamlets Councils, which are planned to populate the area in the very near future, subject to legal conditions.

All photos by Jason Di-Candilo @billthebadger

Here’s a snap-shot of what’s to come and what’s already under way:

Principal Place: A 50-storey tower with 243 apartments, and a 15-storey office complex developed by US-based Brookfield and Canada’s Concord Pacific to sit adjacent to the Broadgate Tower, on the corner of Worship Street and Shoreditch High Street.

Avant Garde: A 74 metre tower was recently completed by Telford Homes on Bethnal Green Road with 257 apartments (with a £3 million penthouse).

Shoreditch Village: Homes, offices, retail, shops and a market will soon exist in the old car park at the back of the Village Underground (the famous Shoreditch venue with the two old tube carriages on the roof) and be called Shoreditch Village.

The Stage: 385 homes as well as retail and business units will be built over the foundations of one of London’s earliest theatres (where Romeo and Juliet was probably first staged some reports rumour). Plans reveal that the archaeological remains will be preserved and incorporated into a visitor centre and small theatre.

The Goodsyard: This is the largest development of all by Hammerson and Ballymore, which is proposed at the site of the former Bishopsgate goodsyard. It will add 3.7 sq ft of residential, retail and office space including up to 2,000 new homes.

Norton Folgate: The two acre area from Blossom Street to Fleur de Lis Street and the the Elder Street Conservation area was established in 1977 to block an attempt to destroy a street of houses dating back to the 1720s. Now it could be demolished and turned into office space, shops and 40 apartments under plans lodged by British Land.

This grand scale gentrification has been nick named the ‘Canary Wharf-isation’ of Shoreditch because before long – if plans persist – Shoreditch will become another Canary Wharf; a hub of grey and sterile residential properties and high-rises.

In fact, collectively these five developments will account for 3,051 new residential units across 5.5m sq ft of new residential, retail and office space, according to the Londonist.

Conversely, the Olympics East Village (the former Athlete’s Village) is a residential development with a total of 2,800 units.

This is just how BIG these developments are.

What will that do to the Shoreditch we know and adore?

And when you thought London had enough skyscrapers, these developments will add more. The Goodsyard, if approved, will have four towers of more than 30 storeys and a fifth with more than 20 storeys. Opposite will be the Principal Place residential development standing at 50 storeys and not far away, The Stage at 40 storeys.

According to Andrew Harris, Urban Studies lead at the University College London, said: “I always thought the greatest transformation [in Shoreditch] happened in the late 90s. It’s incredible to think the momentum hasn’t stopped since. What we’re seeing now [in Shoreditch] is development on a much bigger scale.”

Shoreditch has always been subject to great change. During the 16th century, Shoreditch was home to wealthy bankers and diplomats who worked in the city. Then in the 1980s, there was a widespread de-industrialisation of inner London turning Shoreditch into a site for light industry. In the 1990s, vacant Victorian warehouses and industrial spaces (a byproduct of over de-industrialisation) brought artists, fashion designers and other creatives to the area because of the cheap rent.

It has maintained this reputation since.

It is hipster central and collectively, great things are born from innovative communities such as Shoreditch including pop-up restaurants, social campaigns, unconventional exhibitions, wholesome food markets and creative spaces (with arguably the best coffee).

Mr Harris suggests Shoreditch may be going full circle: “[Shoreditch] was an upmarket suburb for people to live close by the City of London. In some respects, it’s returning to its pre-industrial role,” he says.

For more information, visit The end of street: Questionable‘development’ for the East End as part of this blog series.

Call to Action

If you are just as alarmed of these plans for Shoreditch, join the Skyline Campaign.

On March 29, 2014, a joint statement expressing concern about the London skyline was signed by more than 70 public figures including sculptor Anothony Gormley, presenter Griff Rhys Jones and Royal Academy’s Charles Saumarez Smith.

Will you add your name?

Boris Johnson, London’s Mayor, is sitting in the power seat and could potentially stop these developments in their tracks. Send him an email or letter, and make this issue the top of his priorities:

Boris Johnson
Mayor of London
Greater London Authority
London SE1 2AA

Telephone: 020 7983 4100
Fax: 020 7983 4057

We would love to hear from you.

How do you feel about these planned developments? How can we make a difference?

Share your thoughts in the comment box below.


Leah Davies is a purpose-filled writer, human rights activist and coach for budding wordsmiths, who is driven to cultivate change through our stories. Her social business Paper Planes Connect is a place to celebrate our difference and to unite in our sameness. Using her experience as a journalist and international development worker, she supports the social conscious to platform their voice and create change, both big and small.

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