The first residents are moving into the tallest residential building in Central London as a three-month process of occupation gets under way at the Strata SE1 tower at the Elephant & Castle.
There are 408 homes in the 43-storey tower designed by BFLS architects and developed by Canadian firm Brookfield, including 98 shared-ownership apartments managed by Family Mosaic. These are for first-time buyers in Southwark and surrounding boroughs with incomes below £60,000.
It is a little over three years since demolition of the previous building on the site, London South Bank University's Castle House, began.
Love it or hate it, the tower certainly makes it easy to pinpoint Elephant & Castle from almost anywhere in London. The three wind turbines built into the top of the tower are expected to contribute eight per cent of the building's energy consumption.
Last week developers Brookfield Europe hosted a community preview for local residents to enjoy the view from near the top of the tower the day before the official opening of the building.
"We are immensely proud," says Justin Black of developers Brookfield Europe.
"I've been involved with the project since day one; I was involved when we bought the site, went through planning and did all the sales. So it's a bit like watching your baby take its first steps."
We asked Justin how Brookfield had managed to build Strata in just five years whilst other Elephant & Castle schemes have failed to make it off the drawing board.
"The Elephant & Castle regeneration was envisaged as three tall towers of which this site was always one. So one of the principles behind the building was always accepted so it was slightly easier to get through the planning process.
"I know everyone else is trying to get there and I know that our purchasers would love for the Elephant & Castle regeneration to move forward as quickly as possible. It seems sad that they've moved it while it's like this."
306 of the 310 private apartments have already been sold.
"We sold all the apartments back in 2007 in three phases," says Justin Black. "We only have four left which are the penthouses – available from £850,000 if anyone's interested – so we're starting a completion and occupation process that lasts three and a half months."
It seems there is no shortage of people clamouring to live at Elephant & Castle: "We have some of our purchasers doing resales: DTZ and Savills have about 3,000 or 4,000 people indicating an interest to come and buy. At the same time we are letting on behalf of some of our purchasers and there's a healthy interest in that."
The future of the shops at the base of the tower is not yet settled. "In the short term we have an exhibition in the ground floor retail unit that's next to the pavilion. There's two parts to that. We've had a local portrait photographer called Hannah take pictures of key people from Elephant & Castle. That will be a temporary exhibition for the next month. At the same time we're exhibiting some public art from Camberwell College of Art.
"We ultimately see the retail units as restaurants and amenities to the local area. Ideally I'd love a Carluccio's or that type of thing, or potentially a local restaurateur."
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