Saturday, April 25

Canary Wharf

I am way-East London to pick up my marathon number at the ExCel Center, which is London's largest convention center replacing Earl's Court. My photo unusually faces westward towards the Isle of Dogs and the other side of me is wide, open river - something I rarely see. Eastward one enters the flood planes where yes, you guessed it, Gordon Brown considering residential property development to ease the city's density. Stupid. So Canary Wharf: built on the site of the West India Docks, which from 1802 the busiest in the world. By the 1950s, the port industry began to decline, leading to the docks closing by 1980;he Canary Wharf of today began when Michal von Clemm former chairman of my old firm First Boston came up with the idea to convert Canary Wharf into a back office. Others joined, needing more space than The City could offer. Soon, Olympia & York signed a Master Building Agreement and construction began '88 - the largest commercial project in Europe. One Canada Square, pictured - tallest, was topped out in '90 becoming the UK's tallest building and a powerful symbol of the regeneration of Docklands. Upon opening, the London commercial property market had collapsed and O&Y Canary Wharf Limited filed for bankruptcy in '92. By '95, commercial real estate resurgent and a new set of owners, including O&Y, bought the scheme which today houses Credit Suisse, HSBC, Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers. Oops, scratch that last one. I've always felt sorry for the poor snooks who have to work at London's way-out and I make a point of never meeting anybody there. I don't care how important - it is just not worth the hastle from Mayfair or Richmond. After 9-11, many of the buildings in construction capped - nobody wanted to be a target.

Any fan of Bob Hoskins and perhaps the best gangster move ever, "The Long, Good Friday," will recognise this area - or maybe not, given its change from 1980. The move includes a Thames redevelopment vision - and who would control it - for the East End's docklands area, much of it concreted and wide open space at the then. England was a mess, one year into Thatcher, yet the seeds planted for the city's revitalisation.

"What I'm looking for is someone who can contribute to what England has given to the world: culture, sophistication, genius. A little bit more than an 'ot dog, know what I mean?"
Harold, in The Long, Good Friday