Property Hot Spot: The Isle of Dogs: Back from the dogs

London's Docklands have turned full circle: from heart of the shipping Empire, to no man's land, to thriving commercial and residential centre

The demand for refurbished warehouses on the Isle of Dogs in east London is so great that "developers are buying old bricks from other areas and trucking them here," says Matthew Emerson of the estate agents Felicity J Lord.

New-builds posing as old intermingle with a smattering of the genuinely old and a wide array of the unapologetically modern. The current wave of construction in E14 is reclaiming virtually every available scrap of land, either for residential use or for various commercial ventures or infrastructure projects.

Water has been the main lure of the Isle of Dogs, initially for commerce and now for a mixture of office and residential use. As a peninsula, the area is blessed with an unusually large stretch of riverside, and the numerous internal docks contribute yet more waterside space. Thanks largely to this pleasant riverscape, big commercial developments cohabit comfortably with apartment blocks and townhouses.

Canary Wharf's workforce of 25,000 "is due to rise to 50,000 in 2002, and be up to 90,000 when the estate is fully built in five to seven years," says a spokesperson for the development. By that time, both the Jubilee Line and the Docklands Light Railway extensions will have been completed.

"As a direct result of the heightened profile of Canary Wharf, capital values have risen, and improved communications will have a massive impact," notes Tina Hanks, sales and marketing director for Canary Riverside, a mixed-use development comprising more than 300 residential units.

But to Emerson, "E14 is not booming as much as we would wish. It's nothing like the hot spots that have recently been reported on television. The market here is ticking along in a nice optimistic vein. It's healthy but not saturated." He notes that developers today have different priorities from those that prevailed in the first phase of building five to 10 years ago. "Older developments, such as Cascades and a few others, have gyms and leisure centres. Some of these developments are in great locations with great views, but these amenities are expensive to build and maintain, so service charges are higher. In the second-hand market, prices can be lower to reflect these higher charges.

"A lot of the new builds, on the other hand, have concierges, car parking and security, but no pools or leisure centres, so their service charges are lower."

However, a swimming pool is part of St George's Lockes Wharf, while a health club is included in the Canary Riverside complex, which will also house a Four Seasons Hotel scheduled to open in December. Residents will have access to the leisure centre and some hotel facilities, including the rooftop restaurant.

"Docklands used to be the outer reaches of London," says Emerson. "With the Jubilee Line and the DLR, it is as feasible to live here as anywhere in the city. The ferry is going ahead and another foot tunnel is being built."

Although it has a solid and improving base of supermarkets, shops and restaurants, the island is not yet self-contained. Emerson believes that "all that the Isle of Dogs needs now is a cultural area so that people don't have to travel into the West End for entertainment".

The Low-Down

Transport: The Jubilee Line will connect to London Bridge in seven minutes and Waterloo in 11. The Docklands Light Railway will extend to Lewisham by the end of the year, and to Silvertown and London City Airport in 2003. The airport serves more than 20 major European destinations. Sadly, the river bus between Canary Wharf and London Bridge has an uncertain future.

Thinking big: St George's Lockes Wharf has 424 flats and 40 townhouses, from pounds 89,950. About 40 per cent of Canary Riverside's 322 units are still available, from pounds 220,000. At Barratt's Pierhead Lock, 33 of 99 flats remain, from pounds 224,995. Only two units remain at FairBriar's two E14 developments, Moline's Wharf and Dunbar Wharf; one was just reduced from pounds 210,000 to pounds 195,000. Knight Frank is selling luxury apartments from various developers, including Bellway's Limehouse Basin (from pounds 150,000), Boardwalk (from pounds 180,000) and Furlong's Ocean Wharf (from pounds 170,000).

Lateral thinking: Copthorn built 14 townhouses in Indigo Mews, Ashton Street, on the northern edge of the island and sold all of them in two hours.

Bears and bulls: Knight Frank's Summer 1999 London Residential Review reports that Isle of Dogs values increased "by up to 25 per cent during the last 12 months. Our Canary Wharf office reports a cyclical trend over the last five years where the first half of each year has witnessed strong sales activity with a weaker second half."

Birds and dogs: Millwalk Park and Mudchute Park combine to provide about 30 acres of greenery. Mudchute Farm has llamas as well as the usual urban farmyard cuddlies and, in an area dominated by watersports, a riding school (0171-515 0749). Docklands used to handle imports from the Canary Islands, hence the name Canary Wharf. Doggy Island's nomenclature is obscure; it may derive from the siting of royal kennels here aeons ago.

Shopping, flopping, dropping: Canada Square Mall opens next spring with French Connection, Cafe Fresco, HMV, Active Venture, among others, leasing space. Cabot Hall is Canary Wharf's banqueting, conference and concert venue. Major events are also held in the London Arena.

Canary Wharf: Canary Wharf consists of 10 office buildings, 80 shops, restaurants, bars, a station, Cabot Hall, a health club and the pyramid- toppped, 800ft One Canada Square - the tallest building in the UK. Under construction are office buildings for Citibank, HSBC, Credit Suisse and others.

Canada Square park is being expanded to two acres to provide retail and car parking space.

Estate agents: Felicity J Lord, 0171-987 6776; Knight Frank, 0171-512 9955; Barratt, 0171-538 9359; FairBriar, 0171-536 9380; Lockes Wharf, 0171-531 6280

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