Keep The Culture Coming And East London Property Will Thrive
“Alongside good infrastructure, culture is the social glue that binds us all together.”
It is also the magnet that is helping the East London property sector to expand and thrive.
Ballymore's Roger Black was speaking at Bisnow’s Future of East London event, which went beyond the world of traditional real estate and featured speakers from some of the major cultural and educational institutions which are moving from West or Central to East London.
They explained why they had made the move, and delegates heard how this is influencing the real estate market in almost every sector.
“If the V&A could only choose one site to build a new museum today, we would choose East London over South Kensington,” Victoria & Albert Museum Chief Operating Officer Tim Reeve said. The V&A is one of several cultural institutions that will be opening new facilities on the former Olympic Park at Stratford. They will be part of the group of institutions taking space at the £1.1B East Bank alongside Sadler’s Wells theatre and the London College of Fashion.
“What is distinctive about East London is that it is where the audience we were founded to serve lives and works. We are seen as a source book for the creative industries and we see ourselves in those terms, and East London is where those industries are now located.”
“For us what is exciting is connecting to the heritage of fashion and the rich, diverse communities that are in East London,” London College of Fashion Director of Public Engagement and Culture Laura Gander-Howe said. “Also being part of that row of organisations and the potential for collaboration that creates is very exciting.”
In many cases developers are weaving these cultural institutions into their schemes. The event was held in a partially converted warehouse at Ballymore’s Goodluck Hope scheme that featured a miniature rainforest. Goodluck Hope is part of the wider London City Island development zone where Ballymore and Eco World are developing more than 1,600 new homes, but also a new 250K SF home for the English National Ballet which will include offices and rehearsal and performance facilities.
“The National Ballet have come here not because they have been subsidised or because someone has paid them, but because they are targeting a wider audience because they want to have greater social depth, and this is a great way of realising that ambition,” Black said.
“They are a West End organisation, both in terms of where they are and culturally, but they are coming here to East London, and not just anywhere, out here in the docks. That is a brave move but they want to change their culture.”
And where these institutions go, commercial real estate occupiers are following. Crosstree Real Estate principal Peter Robinson said cultural institutions are a major draw for office occupiers. “Even just a small museum or gallery nearby is extremely helpful,” he said. The appeal for office occupiers is highlighted by the resilient rents in the area, which have outperformed those of central and Western districts over the past 10 years.
The draw of culture extends beyond education and museums. That indefinable buzz that areas like Shoreditch create is changing the hospitality sector in East London. Crosstree recently bought the 178-room RE Hotel in Shoreditch and will install fashionable two-star boutique brand Mama Shelter as the operator.
At the top end, hotels like The Curtain and Nobu have opened in an area that was until very recently seen as a dead end for luxury hotels. And they are drawing a new breed of guest.
“When we said to our board four or five years ago that we wanted to open in Shoreditch they went a bit pale in the face,” Curtain Managing Director Elli Jafari said. “But since we opened a year ago we have hosted a conference for 120 global directors at UBS. They come because they can have more fun.”
Of course, the idea that East London is now the preserve of investment bankers will fill some with horror, and raises the possibility that the area’s success will kill off what made it so popular in the first place. But Black argued that the area will simply expand into the large post industrial zones that lay largely vacant, like the Royal Docks, and evolve.
“East London has always been marked by waves of immigration and change, and has always adapted to that change,” he said. “This is simply part of that continuum.”
See also: How East London Conquered The World