Canary Wharf has suffered with the loss of office tenants with the rise of hybrid working post-pandemic. In fact, it had one of the highest vacancy rates in London of 14.8% in the second quarter of this year according to property information provider CoStar.

Not all financial companies are leaving the area, Citi for one is committed for the next 30 years, however Canary Wharf Group (CWG) has still had to look at diversifying beyond office spaces. CWG is focussing on meeting the rising demand in London for life sciences space by bringing more life sciences to Canary Wharf. 

The planners are in favour – just see the joint venture between CWG and Kadans Science Partner which was granted planning permission for a 23 storey, 823,000 sq ft life science building at One North Quay. What is interesting is that it is being marketed as a “first of its kind vertical campus”, a tower of knowledge if you will, in keeping with the buildings we are used to seeing in Canary Wharf. Kadans Science Partner is committed to the area, highlighting this as the first phase in its plans, as an outline planning consent has already been secured for the wider scheme, with the capacity to deliver 3.5 m sq ft of lab and affiliated space.

CWG is not stopping there. Following the success of its other build-to-rent (BTR) schemes, earlier this year, it secured a £535 m loan for the next phase of its Wood Wharf residential scheme. Once complete, Wood Wharf is expected to have over 3,600 new homes, nine acres of public spaces, a GP surgery and a school. 

Of course, challenges will arise during construction, particularly given the proximity of the site to rail lines and the dock, but that is no different to developing in Paddington, for example. Unlike other life science hubs however, Canary Wharf is not in close proximity to universities excelling in sciences. Does that matter? Are the BTR schemes much more of a pull to graduates?  

It will be fascinating to see how Canary Wharf’s journey into a life sciences hub jostling with BTR schemes develops.