IKEA To Create Neighborhood in London
Prospective London renters will soon have the opportunity to move into a neighborhood with landlords of international acclaim. IKEA, the Swedish furniture mega-business infamous for its affordable modern furnishings and delectable Swedish meatballs, will hand over the keys to 1,200 homes and apartments upon completion of an East London neighborhood. With mixed price housing, a vehicle-free pedestrian center, an underground parking garage, a hotel, and room for office space, the “Strand East”–as the company has named the project–will refurbish a currently defunct and decrepit former industrial hub. While its familiar trimmings won’t necessarily adorn its apartments, IKEA plans to govern the 11-hectare (approximately 27-acre) space with the same emphasis on clean, affordable design.
“We’d have a very good understanding of rubbish collection, of cleanliness, of landscape management,” project manager Andrew Cobden told Globe and Mail. “We would have a fairly firm line on undesirable activity, whatever that may be. But we also feel we can say, okay, because we’ve kept control of the management of the commercial facilities, we have a fairly strong hand in what is said in terms of the activities that are held on site.”
Trash will be collected via underground tunnels, writes Design Taxi. A hydroelectric plant will power the neighborhood which will emphasize walkways and bike paths, only permitting vehicular transportation in the form of buses and ambulances. To foster vibrant community growth, IKEA will encourage the flourishing of farmers’ markets and flower stalls while disallowing the likes of Internet cafés and check-cashing shops–common signals of neighborhood blight, Globe and Mail notes.
LandProp, the property division of Inter IKEA–who invests profits from the furniture giant–purchased the East London corridor in 2009, and the company’s Swedish and British teams have since been fostering blueprints. Images resembling the charming historic facades of center London and Paris pepper the charts. IKEA hopes the Strand East will lend partial resolution to the housing problems common to the urban landscape.
“We are in keeping with the IKEA philosophy: We don’t want to produce for the rich or the super-rich; we want to produce for the families, for the people,” Harald Müller, the head of LandProp, told Globe and Mail. “Our approach must be to get the right housing and office prices while delivering very good quality at the same time. We want to be smart enough in our design that we can offer the product for a reasonable price.”
Inherent in this reasoning is the notion that IKEA will be in the workings of the neighborhood for the long haul.
“…We are acting as a long-term investor, we are equity-driven, so we are acting very differently from a developer,” Müller told Globe and Mail.
It’s here that the cons to living in a privately owned neighborhood–lack of resident motivation for upkeep–are somewhat assuaged. IKEA has a stake in keeping the Strand East as well-run and orderly as possible. Still, the concept of living in a cookie-cutter furniture giant-run utopia is enough to induce doubt. Especially if the “good quality” the company refers to is anything like their cork-wood dressers which tend to fall apart just months after assembling.
Photos from Globe and Mail