Recently announced proposals aim to turn an area of London’s Docklands into a vibrant creative neighbourhood. The scheme which includes plans for offices, restaurants and art galleries as well as residential property is centred around Wapping’s historic Metropolitan Wharf.
The Grade II listed building is an eight storey structure that was built in the early nineteenth century to serve as a tea warehouse and prospered during the golden age of commercial shipping. It was bought by property developer Nick Capstick-Dale at the onset of the current banking crisis. Now he hopes to use the building to attract niche creative businesses from areas such as Shoreditch.
Wapping has a long maritime history and was once the scene of the Admiralty’s Execution Dock which was used for the public hangings of convicted pirates including the legendary Captain Kidd. Following the post-war decline of the docks, the area was neglected before it was transformed in the 1980s, when waterfront regeneration first captured the imagination of developers. Similar projects in port cities such as Liverpool and Bristol were also begun during this period and proved crucial in changing the fortunes of these regions.
In the case of Docklands the redevelopment brought commercial property including offices and light industrial units into the area and saw Rupert Murdoch move News International to Wapping in 1986, prompting a bitter industrial dispute. This year the company announced its plans to sell the 15 acre site and relocate the remaining News International staff to other London premises. Surprisingly, as Wapping became a fashionable area during the 1980s Metropolitan Wharf remained untouched. A planned commercial property development never got off the ground as developers turned towards more lucrative opportunities in areas like Canary Wharf.
Now, according to a report, this is about to change. Nick Capstick-Dale is described as an old school developer who likes to select properties that offer the opportunity to pursue his distinctive vision. Metropolitan Wharf is one of these sites. To original features like cast irons columns and exposed brick he has added contemporary touches including a glass wall opening onto a riverside terrace, and a copper reception desk from designer Tom Dixon.
The building will house a mixture of residential and commercial properties. Already fashion and media companies are moving in with exclusive bars and restaurants set to follow. Capstick-Dale, who describes the development as a village in a building, is keen to exercise control over what type of businesses take up residency in Metropolitan Wharf, declining proposals from those who don’t suit his conception of the project and offering attractive incentives to those that do.
The development of Metropolitan Wharf coincides with that of Wapping Lane which will also accommodate a variety of residential and commercial property in five new buildings, taking up part of the Tobacco Dock site. It is hoped that this will lead to further development of the area and with waterfront commercial property remaining a popular investment it can only be good news for the local economy and the community as a whole.