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Canary Wharf seeks top price for top floors

CANARY WHARF is holding back the top 10 floors of 1 Canada Square - the tallest building in Britain - in the hope of getting a premium rent when the rest of the complex is full.

The London Docklands office complex is recovering so successfully from its period in administration that its manage- ment feels it can now afford to wait before letting go of the jewel in its crown.

While the rest of Canary Wharf is being marketed at between pounds 16 and pounds 25 per square foot, it hopes prestige-conscious tenants will pay well above this for floors 40 to 50. As the City's great rival, Canary Wharf would like to be able to match top rents there - currently about pounds 35. "Our research tells us good- quality space is going to be in short supply," said Jeremy Stewardson, a partner in letting agent Jones Lang Wootton. "We should be in a prime position to concentrate on those floors next year." Canary Wharf will probably not find one company prepared to take all 280,000 sq ft - but it is determined not to sell it off floor by floor either.

Last week, it emerged that Readers' Digest is negotiating to move into one of two unbooked large units - 11 Westferry Circus. That just leaves the 350,000 sq ft building at 25 The North Colonnade, although the management says it is talking to a company interested in taking most of the building. There are now 13,000 people working in the Wharf, with another 2,500 from Barclays de Zoete Wedd and Trade Indemnity scheduled to move in next year.

The retail space - which until recently looked woefully empty - is also filling up fast, the company says; 50 units are now let or in the hands of lawyers - twice as many as a year ago.

But one thing Canary Wharf has not been able to counter is the relapse in standards on the Docklands Light Railway - after improving considerably, its computerised brain suffered regular overload during the summer.

Mr Stewardson said that, if demand continued to grow, the complex would move on to stage two of Canary Wharf, which would add another 8 million sq ft to the 4.5 million already built. (Graphic omitted)