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Canada Water: 4 things I learned about the £4bn site

Lucy Alderson

The first time I visited Canada Water, it was by accident.

It was a few years back: my first day of a work experience placement in Canary Wharf, and I was on the Jubilee line travelling east.

I was eager to get in early to make a good first impression – maybe a bit too eager, as I got off one stop too soon at Canada Water.

Although I briefly enjoyed the station’s view of the lake, I was confused: where were all Canary Wharf’s skyscrapers? As the mistake dawned, I quickly hotfooted it back on the next train.

Others have undoubtedly made the same mistake. But British Land wants to make sure that, in future, far more people will be getting off at Canada Water on purpose.

The developer is spearheading a £4bn transformation of the area. In total, 5m net sq ft of developments will be built, split roughly 50:50 between commercial and residential space.

With British Land lodging a planning application with Southwark Council last week, I took a tour of the site with the project’s mastermind, Roger Madelin, to check out the opportunities for contractors.

Ahead of publishing the full article on my visit tomorrow, here are my top four takeaways:

Who’s lining up for the scheme?

With a monster pipeline of work up for grabs, everyone from industry heavyweights through to SMEs will have a chance to secure work.

In fact, you might already be involved in discussions. Mr Madelin says British Land is currently “thinking, talking and strategising very hard with the supply chain, including major contractors and major specialist contractors” about the first phase of works and beyond.

Check out my full article tomorrow for more details of the major contractors in the mix…

Advantages over King’s Cross

Mr Madelin is probably best known in the industry for orchestrating Argent’s regeneration of King’s Cross.

It was similar in size to the planned Canada Water redevelopment, but faced a different array of obstacles when the recession hit. “When I was at King’s Cross, it was 2008, you couldn’t borrow any money,” Mr Madelin tells me. “We couldn’t say [to contractors], ‘Next year we’re going to start this building’.”

However, Mr Madelin believes he should be able offer a more visible pipeline of work for contractors this time around, adding that British Land has a substantial balance sheet with enough resources for the first phase and beyond.

Office market trends

As we tour the site, Mr Madelin reveals that, in all his 35 years in the industry, he has never had as many conversations with potential office occupiers as he had on the Canada Water scheme.

He adds that British Land has been surprised by the number of office lettings it has recorded following the EU referendum. This could suggest that the office market is showing some resilience, despite the endless uncertainty over Brexit.

Printworks

And finally, for those partial to the occasional rave, you might be pleased to know that British Land is mulling whether to keep certain areas of the Printworks building open as entertainment spaces.

The former Daily Mail facility is currently being used as an arts and cultural venue, and has made a name for itself as one of London’s best clubs.

Off the back of this success, British Land is considering keeping the Press Hall and a separate building open, but the warehouses will almost certainly be demolished and redeveloped in phase one of the scheme.

Check back tomorrow morning for more details of British Land’s £4bn plans.

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