Greenwich Mean Time  


The opportunity to build an entire district from scratch in a city like London is rare. Laura Henderson meets the visionary developer defying the odds

Better known for its naval heritage than its development potential, the Royal Borough of Greenwich isn’t an obvious location choice for a regeneration zone. But it’s one that is currently being masterminded by award-winning Hong Kong developer Knight Dragon. Billed as the UK’s largest ever urban renewal project taken on by a single developer, London’s £8bn spend Greenwich Peninsula certainly passes with flying colours for scale of aspiration.

Located across the Thames from Canary Wharf on a former industrial stretch comprising patches of wasteland, wilderness and marshland, the Peninsula certainly packs a punch for waterfront views, surrounded on three sides by river, which stretches some 300 metres across.

Although it’ll be a long wait till the project is officially finished (20 years for its entire masterplan) 15,720 homes, alongside 48 acres of parkland open space and a commercial district encompassing 3.5 million square feet of shops, hotels, schools and public facilities are all in in the mix, along with a design district and film studio.

Investment in transport links is also being woven into the infrastructure build out. Both the Docklands Light Railway and the North Greenwich (Jubilee Line) provide fast journeys to Canary Wharf. River buses shuttle 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 2021), will serve Woolwich, where Royal Arsenal Riverside is located.

Orchestrating the build out is no mean feat – seven plus years in however and working partnerships are gelling nicely combining world-class creatives from architecture, planning and design fields including Stevie Parle, Conrad Shawcross, and Conran & Partners pooling their talents. Wooing design-conscious buyers, the latest residential phase showcasing its luxe-lifestyle finery is Upper Riverside. Designed by SOM architects (Skidmore Owings & Merrill), the name behind the Burj Khalifa and One World Trade Centre, this 5-tower waterfront district mixes residential with recreational facilities. Cascading terraces, geometric glass and stone fronts maximise light and the statement towers have cantilever decked balconies with views over Greenwich and the Thames.

Each individual building interior has a different designer at the makeover helm. Drawing more than its share of investor interest, is Building 2, created by Tom Dixon sporting all his signature flair; burnished copper mood lighting, plush velvet upholstery and glossy finishes. Units are nicely proportioned – with a mix of double-height lofts, studios and three penthouses of up to 2,485 square feet with additional vast private terraces. Homes include bespoke Tom Dixon kitchens with enamel splashbacks, copper cabinetry and moulded island units. Bathrooms continue the industrial chic theme with rolled steel bathtubs, dichroic glass showers and copper brassware.

“Industry had been a large part of the Peninsula until relatively recently,” Dixon explains. “Before bombs destroyed it in the Second World War, it had been an active manufacturing area. Place-making is key to how we go about design and planning and referencing the past will be very much part of this process.”

For Building 2, a unique facility is the stunning Renew, an entire floor of wellness and relaxation. It has one of London’s highest swimming pools, along with views across the city from the gym areas. Other towers have games rooms, cinemas, lounges, all of which are shared by the area’s residents.

Explains GP spokesperson Kerri Sibson: “Health and wellbeing is key to design. To that end, each Upper Riverside tower will be separated by manicured, landscaped grounds and public areas for residents. Furthermore, each of the buildings will have its own unique facilities, encouraging residents to move from one to the other. The idea is to create a fully functioning community ecosystem within the bounds of the peninsula. Gardens connected to the riverfront will have river cafes, different types of retails and lively public spaces. Upper Riverside also links to Peninsula Square with access to the Underground at North Greenwich (Jubilee Line), the O2, friendly restaurants and buzzy social areas.”

Key to Greenwich Peninsula’s success to date has been balancing those buying to live and investors buying to let. “By selling the first phase of flats only in London, Knight Dragon made a “conscious statement,” says local agent Guy Epps: “Historically, developers have used Asia to presale their developments but Knight Dragon said that these apartments are for local Londoners and they are being offered the opportunity to buy ahead of anyone else.”

Adds Sibson: “Response to the new homes has been tremendous. First time buyers, owner occupiers and investors clearly see the potential the Peninsula offers. Something like this only happens once in a generation in London. We have big plans for the Peninsula and the team, the determination and the finance to deliver them.”


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