When we last looked at the issue of London and the south east’s shifting geography, it was clear then that there were some marked changes afoot. No longer could you be sure to be rubbing shoulders with just journalists in Fleet Street or bankers galore in the City of London. Some of these shifts have continued apace while other, newer trends in occupational migration have popped up in various pockets of the capital and its outskirts.
The City continues to diversify from its core activities in financial services. These days the Stirling Prize-winning Bloomberg headquarters is a mere stone’s throw from the Bank of England, a contemporary media giant amongst the older institutions surrounding it. The nearby Ned private members club, located in a former Midland Bank building and a WeWork in the postmodern No1 Poultry building opposite, are signs that the Square Mile is becoming somewhat more hip than it ever used to be. Indeed with WeWork et al, it’s hard to ignore the behemoth that is the co-working sector in London as a whole, reaching over two million square feet in 2018, bringing SMEs into addresses they might not have otherwise been able to afford.
A short distance away on the fringes of the City of London, businesses that would have traded off their proximity to the financial district are now banking on the fact that they can open up the Shoreditch side of their buildings to capitalise on the cache of east London cool, a trend set by the Alphabeta building which rebranded in 2015.
A hop on the DLR from Bank down to Docklands and it’s clear many of the buildings in Canary Wharf are finishing their first incarnation, being 20-25 years old. After initially intending to attraction the media sector, this area has become a centre of American finance in terms of the way it looks and feels.
Nearby Stratford in east London is an up and coming area, with the relocation of organisations such as Financial Conduct Authority and Cancer Research UK, signalling a shift out from the more central parts of London. Iterations of famous creative institutions are opening up here too. V&A East will have two sites, a museum and a research centre. The Smithsonian will open up its first presence in London, in partnership with the V&A, and the BBC will provide state-of-the-art music studios.
Dance is a discipline well-represented in Stratford and its environs. Sadler’s Wells East will open a 550-seat theatre and there will be a new centre dedicated to choreography plus a hip-hop academy. Meanwhile, BW was part of the team which worked on the English National Ballet’s move to its new home at London City Island.
The Thames Valley used to market itself as a tech centre but that’s no longer so much the case. While it still retains a strong base in terms of the back office or processing elements, this area has struggled to attract and retain younger staff who are drawn more to central London locations.
King’s Cross is one example of those. It has grown and matured in the last few years, attracting some high-profile players in the tech sector such as Google and YouTube, with Facebook due to relocate its headquarters there by 2021. Creative businesses such as media multinational Havas and Universal Music now also call this area home.
The golden triangle of research centres in subjects including technology, engineering and mathematics in London, Oxford and Cambridge has continued as expected, marrying academia with commercial endeavour while one area that has surprised is Southwark. There, rents have increased and the area has come into its own, with Bankside firmly established as a cultural quarter and its proximity to the City a boon to tenants.