IKEA neighborhood to be built in London

IKEA is planning to build a sizeable east London neighborhood in the next few years:

The new district, Strand East, will include 1,200 homes, of which about 40 percent will have three or more bedrooms. Strand East will also have a 350-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel, 480,000 square feet of offices, shops, cafes, restaurants, a school, a nursery, and a health-care facility, allowing residents to accomplish daily errands and needs without having to drive.

The 26-acre neighborhood-in-progress is being designed to include car-free pedestrian zones, courtyards and landscaped grounds, while the planned underground parking means vehicles will be stowed tidily out of sight. The parcel is bordered on two of three sides by waterways, so the community might take on a Venice-like feel, with a water taxi service, a floating cocktail bar, and moorings that will be available for residents’ use…

Although some planning approvals are pending, construction is planned to begin in 2013 — after the Olympics — and is expected to take about five years. However, one section, Dane’s Yard (pictured at top) has been approved. It will feature a 40-meter-high (131-foot) illuminated sculpture in its public square, and a Grayson’s restaurant that will focus on ethically and locally sourced foods. It will also retain renovated versions of some of the historic buildings.

“We will turn it around for sure,” says Müller. “Not being arrogant, but for sure it will be a new hotspot in London.”

This isn’t IKEA’s first time pursuing something like this: the article suggests they have had “similar developments in Poland, the Baltics and Romania.” It is too bad the article doesn’t tell us more about those projects.

The redevelopment project itself doesn’t sound too startling; it sounds like they want to create a new vibrant neighborhood that will take advantage of some of the settings for the site which includes water access. What I assume will catch people’s attention is that the development company is part of IKEA. Does this immediately change the perceptions about the project? Compare this to Celebration, Florida – is it better or worse to have IKEA versus Disney build a neighborhood/town? How involved will IKEA be with the neighborhood after the neighborhood is constructed? What would happen if other retail companies, say Target or Walmart or Costco, decided to build neighborhoods?

I wonder how many jokes could be made about this. Do residents have to assemble their own homes out of a box? Will the design all be Scandinavian minimalism…?

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