IKEA breaks ground on its Utopian village within London
By Eric Mack
April 13, 2012
When you enter one of IKEA's giant home furnishing stores, it often feels like taking a trip to a distant, uber-modern town where everyone is just a little more hip than where you just came from, and space is used oh-so-efficiently. Now, the iconic Swedish company wants to actually build just such a town in the real world – in London, to be exact.
LandProp Holding, IKEA's real estate development arm, has snapped up 26 acres (10.5 hectares) in a historic and somewhat blighted section of London to create an idyllic urban hamlet dubbed "Strand East." If you're familiar with London-town, you'll find it between Stratford High Street, the Three Mills Wall River and the River Lea waterways.
It's not the first housing project IKEA has undertaken, but this time the company says the goal is to create a development that fits in with the rest of London "...where mews-style townhouses sit comfortably alongside creative commercial space. Where beautiful public courtyards open up to piazzas. And waterways weave their way around hotels, restaurants, parks, water taxi piers and cycle paths."
Strand East will include 1,200 new homes, 40 percent of which will have at least three bedrooms and enough space to accommodate families. Parking is underground to keep the Ikean Utopia as vehicle-free as possible, local buses will be re-routed through the neighborhood and water taxis will be resurrected.
The "face" of Strand East will be a former industrial area re-christened "Dane's Yard" – a landscaped plaza with restaurants, bars, galleries and more, near the entrance to the development. The centerpiece of the yard will be a 40-meter (131-ft) -high illuminated tower that LandProp hopes will become a new iconic landmark in Stratford.
The "Northeast Quarter," tucked just behind Dane's Yard, is envisioned as a sort of business incubator of sorts that will "fuse its industrial heritage with clean and modern design to create an intelligently restored, contemporary space for businesses to thrive."
All in all, Strand East will house 50,000 square meters (620,000 sq ft) of space for businesses, including local shops, cafes, restaurants and other community facilities, together with a 350-bedroom hotel. A quarter of the development will be open space, including a riverside park.
LandProp says the tower will be in place by the end of the month, with Dane's Yard planned to open in July. No word yet on when the other business and residential sections of Strand East will be open.
Finally, the company says no, there will not be an IKEA store opening in the neighborhood – Strand East residents will have to make the trek to either the Wembley or Tottenham stores to finish furnishing their new digs.