Marina Bay – Singapore’s Canary Wharf?

December 11, 2011 / By  

Having watched the Marina Bay area evolve into a new office hub in Singapore’s CBD over the past few years, it started me thinking about cities around the globe where such large scale redevelopments have taken place and, being a Londoner at heart, the obvious comparison for me was Canary Wharf.

The redevelopment of Canary Wharf started in 1981 with the formation of the London Docklands Development Corporation, tasked with regenerating the former docks, which were at one time the largest and most successful in the world. With the entire Docklands area covering an area of 8.5 square miles and bridging three London boroughs, Canary Wharf itself was just a small part of the overall regeneration of a rundown area of East London. Master-planned by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, construction started in 1988 with the first buildings completed in 1991 including the centre piece One Canada Square, a 50 storey office building at the heart of the development which is the tallest building in Britain.

After original owners Olympia & York filed for bankruptcy following the collapse of the London commercial property market in 1992, Canary Wharf Group took over the development in 1995 and continued to grow the estate, transforming it into a successful commercial centre popular with financial and professional services companies with many, including Barclays, HSBC, Citigroup and Clifford Chance now housing their world or European headquarters on the estate. Now under the ownership of Songbird Estates plc following a takeover in 2004, there are some 15 million sq ft of office and retail serving the 93,000 people who work there. Even after more than 20 years of redevelopment, the estate keeps on growing with major projects such as Wood Wharf, which will provide around 5 million sq ft of office space, in the pipeline. After a slow start and patchy history, including takeovers, terrorist attacks and several economic downturns, Canary Wharf remains a benchmark example of an inner city regeneration project.

By comparison, the New Downtown Marina Bay area in Singapore is in its infancy but many similarities can be seen between it and Canary Wharf. Marina Bay is located on an area of reclaimed land which was formerly the Telok Ayer Basin. Covering 360 hectares, once completed the New Downtown will comprise nine office buildings providing some 7 million sq ft of office space, 100 hectares set aside for Gardens by the Bay and the 3.5km Marina Promenade. An extension of the existing CBD at Raffles Place, the Urban Redevelopment Authority envisage the area will become one of the world’s financial centres, attracting financial and professional services companies to Singapore. Developments such as Asia Square, Marina Bay Financial Centre and One Raffles Quay have already attracted large multinational companies including Standard Chartered Bank, Barclays Capital, Citibank, and Clifford Chance. With more sites, including the Marina South white site, due to be redeveloped over the coming years, the regeneration of Marina Bay will continue to transform it from its origins under water to a globally recognised financial centre.

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