Bringing the arts back home

An exciting new mixed-use development on the Thames at Greenwich is bringing the arts right onto the doorsteps of residents at Paynes and Borthwick Wharf.

Paynes and Borthwick Wharf (www.paynesandborthwick.com) started life as a marine boiler factory on the banks of the Thames in Greenwich, south east London. The building was one of many that served the historic Deptford naval dockyard; those that remain are now largely converted to other uses along the river. The Grade-ll listed buildings at Paynes and Borthwick Wharf have been used as the centrepiece by the developers for a substantial mixed-use development that makes the most of its urban, riverside setting. Overlooking Canary Wharf on the opposite side of the river, the scheme – which has taken more than seven years from planning to completion, now comprises 253 apartments and ten live and work units, together with more than 34,000 sq ft of commercial space.

Property managers Michael Laurie Magar have been working with the developers Lane Castle (www.lanecastle.com) and fund managers LaSalle Investment Management since before building work began - and, more recently, also with their development partners, United House Developments (www.unitedhouse.net).

“We are committed both to the development and to the wider area, which is now seeing a burgeoning level of interest with more than a dozen large schemes being erected within a short distance of Paynes and Borthwick Wharf as the Deptford/Greenwich area becomes an ever more popular location,” says MLM Managing director Michael Jacobs.

The development is a complex one, bringing just about every type of property management scenario imaginable into play, Michael explains. This, he says, makes for an interesting and constantly challenging role.

Some of the issues faced by his team include

  • A large-scale scheme;
  • The need for an on-site management team;
  • A complex build in a riverside location;
  • A mix of listed and new buildings;
  • Managing central heat and plant installations with combined heating and hot water systems;
  • Managing mixed residential, commercial and live and work space;
  • Managing a range of different residents, with both privately-owned flats and social housing elements;
  • Managing commercial space containing offices, a leisure/arts centre, café, restaurant, retail, and live and work units; and
  • Managing an underground car park for 180 cars.

All these different considerations had to be taken into account when setting the property management strategy which was made more difficult by the fact that the development has been completed in phases. Many early residents were effectively living on a building site for nearly a year. However, the scheme is now up and running with 80% of the apartments now sold.

Flats at Paynes and Borthwick Wharf range from one-bed to three-bed apartments and are finished to a very high standard. With worldclass views across the Thames to London Docklands and the high-rise towers at Canary Wharf, the flats are proving popular with only a limited number of two and three-bedroom apartments still available priced from £375,000 for two bedrooms to £795,000 for a three-bed duplex apartment. Ground rent is £400 per annum for a two-bedroom apartment and £475 for a three-bedroom flat.

The service charge varies according to floor space and location within the development ranging from £2.65/sq ft to £3.32/sq ft per annum. As in all new housing developments there is an element of social housing for rent and a small number of live/work units are also available with a 1300 sq ft unit with two bedrooms and a parking space on the market in March for £595,000.

As part of their commitment to the arts and as a way of promoting the new gallery/arts space at Paynes and Borthwick Wharf, the developers have been fortunate to attract a prestigious theatrical group, The Spectators Guild, which recently used the development as the setting for their latest production – a deconstructed 200 year old Venetian play. The Spectators Guild has put on a number of internationally renowned events in some interesting buildings, but never one as challenging as Paynes and Borthwick. The production was staged in a 255 seat auditorium in the main arts centre. The play is in a modern form with the audience participating to the extent that the play itself and the audience moved around the development, which provided the backdrop for the play.

“We are not quite sure whether this has ever been tried in a development such as this before“, says Michael Jacobs. “So, in and amongst setting the scheme up for property management on a normal basis, we were presented with the interesting dilemma of a full-on theatrical production. Issues such as how to stage the play; how to get buy-in from the residents and most important of all, how to manage such a lavish production in the common parts and external communal areas of a working, living building with 263 families living in the scheme are not in our normal daily remit.”

Paynes and Borthwick Wharf will be classified as a major events stadium for the duration of the production run, involving significant health and safety considerations for the the audience and, most important, from the residents in what is effectively a non-secured site, Michael explains.

The task for the property management team has been immense, with alterations needed to some very delicate construction work. Most of the audience arrived in Greenwich by Thames Clipper to view the production, with a temporary jetty being constructed to accommodate arrivals. “Just when I thought there was not much I had not seen in 20 years of management, staging a theatre production in a near-complete working development has been a challenging, but immensely interesting and rewarding project to work on - unlikely to be repeated in my lifetime.”

“The background work, time and effort involved in planning this production will ensure its success and put Paynes and Borthwick Creative Arts Centre on the map on an international scale”, says Michael.