How Stratford is becoming a destination of choice

Passengers emerging from the key Stratford interchange on the Crossrail route will be greeted by a skyline unrecognisable from the one the 500,000-plus overseas visitors to the Olympic Stadium encountered in 2012.

By the time Crossrail – which will provide a fast service from Heathrow to the west of London to the West End, the City, Canary Wharf and on to Essex and Kent – starts operating in 2018, Stratford’s skyline will be dominated by three ultra-modern towers ranging in height from 122 metres to 56 metres and providing 89 floors of executive living space.

Manhattan Loft Gardens

Construction work on the Glasshouse Gardens project got underway in July 2014 and when complete in 2016 will provide a total of 333 studio flats, one, two and three-bedroom homes in two 30 and 17-storey residential buildings in the new International Quarter – a joint venture between developers Lend Lease and London and Continental Railways to create a £1.3bn commercial and residential development in Stratford.

The residential space, which has been designed by London-based architecture and urban planning practice Allies and Morrison, will showcase the latest in sustainable building practices and innovation.

The buildings will feature green roofs for absorbing rainwater and providing insulation, while every residential unit at Glasshouse Gardens will also have its own private outdoor space, giving residents panoramic views across Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the City and Canary Wharf.

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Major high-rise development

When the development was launched in January 2014, prices being asked were about £750 per square foot and ranged from £450,000 to £775,000. Apartments in Stratford’s other major high-rise development – Manhattan Loft Gardens – start at £615,000 and go up to £1m but are aimed at the same type of investors that saw the potential of Canary Wharf in the mid-1980s.

And to promote the double-cantilevered 42-storey tower containing 248 luxury apartments and a 145-room hotel to a wider audience, the Manhattan Loft Corporation formed a partnership with Harrods Estates that saw a property pop-up shop open in the world-famous department store.

Harrods Estates director Shirley Humphrey says: “The pop-up shop was designed to showcase the most luxurious and finest properties in London to our target market of international and UK investors and property owners.”

Harry Handelsman, CEO of Manhattan Loft Corporation, adds: “We are delighted to be collaborating with Harrods Estates within the iconic Harrods department store. There is no better window in London in which to showcase Manhattan Loft Gardens and no better way to underscore the quality of our development.”

When Handelsman – the man behind the Chiltern Firehouse restaurant and St Pancras Hotel projects that succeeded despite making little commercial sense at the time – was developing the Manhattan Loft Gardens concept, he said: “Stratford is all about the next decade, not the last.”

Initially, he tasked architect Skidmore Owings & Merrill – the firm behind the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, in Dubai – with creating the most beautiful building in the world. When complete in 2016, the project, complete with angled windows that create a serrated edge which throws jagged shafts of light into the building and three sky gardens, will become a landmark building in Stratford.

The first sky garden cuts through the tower at 29 metres, the second at 85.3 metres and the third one fills half of the top of the tower at 122 metres above ground.

The exterior is dominated by the use of vertical terracotta fins that form what looks like a serrated facade. From a practical point of view, these provide solar shading where it is needed, but also work on a decorative level adding texture to the glass skin they sit atop of.

Inside, interiors firm K&O has designed each unit so that no two are the same; some come with juliette balconies, some have intimate ‘dens’ in addition to the main living space, while others have 4m high ceilings.

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Windows of opportunity

And unlike many residential towers, here residents will be able to open their windows and let in fresh air. The tower also has rainwater collection that will be used to keep its sky gardens lush, and it will be connected into the local district heating network that has already been built for the area.

Handelsman goes on to explain: “What I do are acts of love. It’s not how much money I will make but what kind of contribution I can make, how I can change people’s aspirations or just to create things that don’t exist yet.”

“Instead of simply developing a vertical stack of luxury apartments, we wanted to create a new concept in tower building – one in which people have the opportunity to really interact with one another.”

While Stratford remains uncharted territory for London professionals and investors searching for property in the capital, that will change when the 74-mile east-west Crossrail link transports an estimated 250 million passengers to central London each day by 2026.

Nelly Berova, of residential specialist Intero Investments, says: “We have been analysing the prospects of property value growth in Stratford since London won the right to host the Olympic Games in 2005. We are now recommending Stratford as an area in which to purchase luxury developments to members of our property investment club.

“Stratford is an area of London that luxury property investors should now be paying close attention to,” she adds. “London has a shortage of high-end developments that provide the fast links into the city that tenants demand.

“Not only that, the area is benefiting from a wealth of regeneration projects that will help deliver a higher than average rise in property values plus great yields from the best new developments.”

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Discover how Stratford is becoming a centre of excellence for education and culture.  |  Image credit & source: c/o SOM (