We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of E14. And we’re getting there by skipping along the road from Canning Town tube station over the Red Metal Bridge and onto munchkin-sized London City Island, with its dinky coloured buildings and its magical heated outdoor pool.
No-one would suggest that there’s anything magical about Canning Town, unfortunately. Even in relatively modern times it squatted crossly on a list of the 5% most deprived areas in the UK. So credit must be given to those who have the grit, guts and cast iron cajones to take on a large, ostensibly unappealing area and launch a £3.7bn regeneration programme. On the other hand, why not? The once utterly desolate Canary Wharf is a success. Although that took three decades and a campaign to convince new arrivals that London stops at St Paul’s so not to bother going anywhere else. London City Island isn’t finished yet but what’s there now feels bedded in. The English National Ballet and the London Film School have signed up for state-of-the-art new spaces which is an impressive coup, and we are willing to bet that favourable terms helped those moves along for mutually beneficial reasons. Their combined star power might have made London City Island go all giggly and weak at the knees, but it’s also given the Island status in the secret plan to make E14 cool and attractive to new wealth when it’s still pretty rundown and poor.
So the message that East Is Best and West is where the rich old people live continues to be relentlessly hammered home, and that’s probably a relief for West London, which is enjoying its fair share of redevelopment. New housing of all shapes, all sizes for all sectors of the population is going up all over the East, but London City Island has its eyes firmly on the Gainfully Employed Young Professionals sector. The package on offer is a 30+ urbanite’s dream even if the Gainfully Employed Young Professionals who feature in the promotional video all look freezing cold. The magical heated outdoor pool is a bit of a surprise but perhaps Ballymore know more about how fast the earth is warming than the rest of us. The (indoor) spa pool and large gym at ground level have floor-to-ceiling windows so users had better be fit before they go in but exercising with a view and natural light is a very pleasant experience indeed.
Gainfully Employed Professionals love a cool deli/café/bar combo and that’s been thoughtfully provided. But, oh no! We’ve run out of cat food, aspirins and razors! No problem, we’ll just dash down to… where? Well, although there are convenience stores ‘dotted around’, they’re just not dotted around London City Island. There’s a large Nisa at East India Station that’s a ten minute walk along an unprepossessing route. A supermarket will, we’re told, turn up at some point but in the meantime the residents will have to learn to Be Prepared (copyright Baden-Powell, not Bear Grylls).
As to the flats, effort has been put into giving them a Friends-style ‘urban warehouse aesthetic’ to quote the glossy marketing material. That’s largely been achieved with metro tiling and the crittall window frames once considered a symbol of cheap housing and now all over Instagram. Flats have decent-sized balconies and the views will help residents pinpoint the small parcels of greenery to be found in East London. On that score the East cannot compete with West. The build quality of the flats is good though, the floors feel solid and ceiling heights are reasonable.
If Central London isn’t to be completely over-run with thousands upon thousands of Gainfully Employed Young Professionals with money to burn, the developers have to provide them with reasons to stay in their swish new developments. London City Island is appealing because the whole living on an island idea is fun, and it’s small enough to have a community feel. Two contrived outdoor spaces (Trinity Square and Botanic Square) are provided and the Bow Creek Ecology Park just across the River Lea might take 10 minutes to stroll around since most of the land is taken up with the DLR. Amongst other Soho-style show-off amenities beloved by Young Professionals there’s a handsome, helpful concierge, an arts club, outdoor film screen, rooftop sports pitch, boutiques and yet more cafes.
Transport might be even more of a big sell than the all fancy cafe/deli/bar combos, games rooms and outdoor film screens. Public transport here is new, convenient and it does work very efficiently. The only missing element is ferries given the river is right there, but roads and airports also abound. Anyone heading to or from Essex, Suffolk or Norfolk will be uncomfortably familiar with the A13 which roars past immediately north of City Island. To the south is Lower Lea Crossing, west is the Docklands Light Railway and London City Airport is just over two miles to the east. The airport is about to undergo its own development programme, and there’s plenty of online information worth reading about that!
Please tell us what you like and dislike about this area:
As USPs go, being an island is hard to beat but Ballymore also pride themselves on being a placemaker – the word of the moment in London developments. Speed-building a welcoming, active, successful community is not to be sniffed at and a lot of faith, hope and cash has flooded in to set up the cool Friends vibe here. It seems to be working but residents can help to keep it that way by making sure their parents bring a stock of essentials on visits and then asking them to leave before the bar opens.
Please disclose any commercial relationship to this development or developer:
I do not have any commercial or other relationship with the developer or their agent.
The overall impression of London City Island is that it is beautiful. The aesthetics are modern and stylish, the design of the flats themselves and the amenities such as a gym, pool, and grocer (and more!) are stunning. Build quality is great. We’ve been here two months and everything has been robust and sturdy, we’ve had no issues whatsoever. We’re also able to maintain a great standard of living, as everyone in my flat is very active having the gym onsite is perfect. Value for money is great – rent isn’t cheap but you get a lot in return for what you pay. Also considering how close it is to the airport, we have absolutely no noise complaints. Only loses a star for a slightly stressful move-in period and the price of rent (even with value for money, it’s still a little steep).
Please tell us what you like and dislike about this area:
We like the amenetites onsite and offsite. We have the gym, spa (pool, jacuzzi, steam room, sauna), grocer, bar and restaurant, and more. We’re also right next to Canning Town station, a co-op and a McDonalds. Downsides are that the area doesn’t really have much nightlife or social stuff, so you have to go on the tube or DLR to find fun things to do on weekends.
Please share one thing (or more) which you wish you had known before you moved in:
I wish I’d known that you need a gym induction before you can start using the gym, even if you’re experienced, and that this might take a few days to set up.
We have bought a flat in phase 3 of the London City Island development. We are not professional property investors but chose to invest in a flat here because we believe this development offers more unique features than neighbouring developments and we are excited about the long-term potential of owning here. We fell for London City Island because of the mini city environment the developers are creating with shops, restaurants, boutiques and it being home to the English National Ballet. The location and transport links are fantastic taking residents into or out of the city.
Whilst our flat is not due to be complete until 2019 it is fantastic to have recently visited and seen the completion of the first phase and the work being doing on our building. We initially invested in 2015 but are still really excited about owning a flat here.
Share one thing (or more) you wish you had known before you moved in:
We have bought in phase 3 but the completion of this phase has been delayed by 2 years since the date we were told when we purchased (from 2017 until 2019). The lack of communication from the developers has been frustrating and this length of delay is not something we had appreciated could happen when we bought.
Quite a few of the island buildings have been built but not finished which means you can start to see the shape of what the future island will be like. Quite a few facilities have been completed – the pool and gym are finished and as someone living here in the early phases we definitely benefit from using these whilst they are brand new and also whilst there are not many other residents on the island competing with you to use them. Location wise it is great to walk across the bridge each morning and catch the DLR – so easy and fast. It is definitely a benefit that the commute is so quick as there is not much happening on the island yet in terms of restaurants etc but I am sure these will be completed and grow as more buildings are completed. At the moment we use The Grocer but it doesn’t really cover all your needs though nice to pick up fancy deli bits or have a glass of wine.
Please share one thing (or more) which you wish you had known before you moved in:
It would have been helpful to have a timeline of what is opening when as this keeps seeming to change
The initial facilities are fantastic, my friend lives here and gets amazing service in the gym and they are constantly asking for feedback on what they can add or do better. The Grocer is a fantastic deli and restaurant I would have been happy to have discovered anywhere in London and considering there is only a few buildings complete it does have a good vibe and it is busy. I think what Ballymore have been clever about is light. From viewing and looking at the development it seems every flat has lots of windows and often big windows so you feel like you have a lot of space and it also gives you great views of the river no matter where you are.
When we went to the open day there was a queue of people waiting in line so they could reserve their preferred flat but I subsequently found out that some investors had called in advance and reserved their flat over the phone before the open day, rather than waiting in line.
Ballymore is one of the most forward-thinking residential developers in London. Their buildings are designed from the inside out, the way residential buildings should be. London City Island is a brilliant example of placemaking. A former industrial site with no access to transport has been transformed into a mini self-sufficient city, with direct access to Canning Town Station via a footbridge and home to the BFI and the Royal Ballet. This placemaking creates a very exciting prospect for the long-term success of this development.
The design of the buildings is fantastic, with warehouse-style proportions and great internal layouts. The specification at London City Island is basic for the cost but it is well thought-out. For example, there is no underfloor heating or comfort cooling. The residential amenity is typical to a Ballymore scheme with all the bells and whistles. This is needed as the scheme is isolated from any meaningful local amenity close by. The pricing of this scheme has inflated significantly from the first launch. There are also a number of resales on the market which might affect values in the short term as investors can’t complete and are selling at discounted rates. Clearly London City Island appeals to Canary Wharf more than City workers as there are better value options in more established locations elsewhere in city. It’s also worth looking at Royal Docks West by Mount Anvil and Greenwich Peninsula by Knight Dragon.
London City Island is a unique new offering for Londoners looking to inject some Manhattan cool into their lifestyle. The transformation from neglected Canning Town to the latest and hippest Docklands community is remarkable to say the least. Described as a new island metropolis, this 12-acre riverside development of 1,706 apartments is located on the Leamouth Peninsula, between the River Lea and the Thames. Views are spectacular, and include landmarks like the O2 Arena, the Olympic Park and even the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral in the distance. Access to the Jubilee line and DLR station at Canning Town is easy over the specially commissioned iron bridge. It’s just 20 minutes on the tube to Bond Street or 15 minutes to Westminster, and the financial hub of Canary Wharf is around a 30-minute walk away.
Residents certainly aren’t short of amenities and facilities. All of the Island’s residents are automatically granted member status at the exclusive City Island Social Club, where they can use the clubhouse, gym, screening room, sports facilities, an outdoor heated pool and gardens. This definitely adds to the community spirit within London City Island. The Grocer is a stunning store –all industrial lighting, wooden floors and metro tiles where grocery shopping certainly wouldn’t be a chore. What’s more, City Island is the new home of the English National Ballet and the London Film School, so there’s plenty of culture for the residents to immerse themselves in, alongside the line-up of bars, restaurants, cafes and shops.
From the outside the 11 apartment buildings don’t exactly blend into the surrounding environment. Nor should they. Glazed brick buildings in colours like red, orange and blue are a striking sight, although the buildings clean, simple and industrial lines prevent them from appearing garish. As for the living areas, the New York-esque style of apartment living continues inside, with bright and contemporary open-plan interiors designed and implemented by architectural firms, Woods Bagot, Amos + Amos, and GHA Interiors. C.P. Hart bathrooms add a luxe touch, with Duravit sanitaryware and Crosswater brassware making the bathrooms feel a long way from an after-thought. There’s definitely a sense of warehouse-inspired living, with plenty of ceiling height and Crittal-style windows. Large bedrooms (or certainly for the capital) include built-in wardrobes and ensuite bathrooms. There’s a level of comfort and style reminiscent of five-star hotels. Apartments range from one-bedroom suites to substantial penthouses, with prices not as eye-watering as you’d imagine, being one of London’s most exciting projects in recent years, along with all the facilities on offer.
Buyers will love the unique offering of island living and the development’s waterfront situation. The scale and the finish of the project are impressive, with easy access to Canary Wharf (and indeed central London) appealing to city workers in particular. The development has already won acclaim, such as Development of the Year at the RESI Awards 2017 and Best New Place to Live at the Mayor of London Planning Awards 2017. Further recognition is sure to follow.