Defiance in London's miniature Manhattan

Canary Wharf
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The Independent Online
The skyline of Canary Wharf in London's Docklands, a shining symbol of Britain's position as a world centre of commerce, has become a miniature Manhattan in less than a decade.

The skyline of Canary Wharf in London's Docklands, a shining symbol of Britain's position as a world centre of commerce, has become a miniature Manhattan in less than a decade.

Nine gleaming new office buildings are under construction alongside the 13 already on the site and most are pre-let to companies keen to move to arguably the country's most prestigious business address.

Within the next five years, 50,000 people are expected to join the 41,000 who already work at Canary Wharf, with the development expected to treble in size by the time it is completed.

Yesterday George Iacobescu, chief executive of Canary Wharf Group plc, was adamant the World Trade Centre attack would not deter businesses from moving to or remaining at the development. "People will not change their property decisions because of what was clearly a tragic attack on America... You cannot expect the world to start living in a bunker," he said.

His colleague, Sarah Marrington, added: "People with large property requirements will still be looking at Canary Wharf because there is a shortage of good A-grade, large-scale buildings in London."

The current development includes the famous 800ft tower at One Canada Square – along with retail and conference centres as well as a Tube and three light rail stations. It already covers 6 million square feet with a further 7 million under construction and almost 5.7 million awaiting development. Today One Canada Square, the tallest building in Britain, is competing for space on the skyline with two nearly completed structures.

The first is a 42-storey tower due to be occupied by Citigroup when it is finished at the end of this year. The second, a 41-floor building which has risen in a mere two years, will house 8,000 employees at the HSBC bank's new headquarters early in 2002. Also under construction are three buildings of 30 storeys or more, the first let to the Lehman Brothers investment bank, the second will provide a home for the law firm Clifford Chance and the third is to be partially occupied by the law firms Allen & Overy and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP.

The investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston has already pre-let its fourth premises in Canary Wharf with a 16-storey building under construction, while the global financial services company Morgan Stanley, the McGraw-Hill publishing and financial companies and the Northern Trust bank plan to move into parts of three further buildings – of 13, 12 and 11 floors respectively. A further 285,000 square feet of retail space is also being built.

And yet more buildings are planned. Only last week Barclays plc reached an agreement in principle to develop a new 30-storey headquarters on the site, bringing together most of its non-branch staff currently based in the City and West End. Three more towers have yet to be designed while a further "mid-rise" building of about 15 floors is planned.

Asked if the bank would reconsider its decision to move into a Canary Wharf tower, Caroline Rouse, of Barclays, said: "It is not something we are concerned about at the moment but we are continuing to look at the impact of what happened."

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