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Whats in Wapping

Wapping Project sold for £3.2 million

Wapping Project sold for £3.2 million

The Wapping Project was sold on 19th July 2013 to UK Real Estate Ltd for £3.2m + VAT and the arts space will close fully on 22nd December 2013.

In a recent article in the Observer (1) architecture critic Rowan Moore made the claim that “Complaining Nimbys have led to the closure of one of London’s most important and brightest community art spaces”.

The twittersphere was soon swamped by retweets of the article’s headline:

The Wapping Project: our obsession with house prices will turn our cities into cultural deserts.

But this claim is not true. The facts do not support Rowan Moore’s story.

One complaint every two years

Tower Hamlets Police have checked and then double checked for us and they have no record of any calls or complaints about the Wapping Project.

Tower Hamlets Council have received just six minor complaints during the last thirteen years and state these were resolved informally, or that no further action was taken because no statutory nuisance had been caused. That’s an average of just one complaint every two years.

Rubbish collection times changed

The only complaint of the six which was made in 2013 and is recorded relates to disturbance caused by Tower Hamlets council refuse collection service. The issue was resolved by the council changing their hours of rubbish collection at the Wapping Project.

We’ve spoken to many residents living near the Wapping Project and none have issues with noise disturbance. All were shocked and upset that local residents are being blamed for the Wapping Project’s closure.

Prior to news of the sale in the Observer, Wapping blogger Paul Kellaway had already made the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) requests to Tower Hamlets Council which revealed the details of the six minor noise complaints which have been made during the last thirteen years [view details].

So if the Wapping Project was not forced to close by local residents complaining about noise what could be the reason for the death of this much loved cultural space?

The simple explanation seems to be that Jules Wright, the owner of the Wapping Project, was simply tired of it and the amount of work it took to run.

Jules has said to a number of people that she wants to focus on her other activities, which include the Wapping Project Bankside, a commercial art gallery.

The fact is that the Wapping Project has not caused noise disturbance for local residents and Tower Hamlets Council did not threaten to close the Wapping Project down because of Nimby residents. Jules Wright wanted to sell and UK Real Estate wanted to buy it.

People enjoying the last day of the Wapping Project restaurant on 1 December 2013

People enjoying the last day of the Wapping Project restaurant on Sunday 1st December 2013


The new owner of the Wapping Project

Nick Capstick-Dale owns and runs UK Real Estate, but in contrast to most property developers he claims to have not sold a property since 1992. Seems like he falls in love with his properties and cannot bear to part with them [This is Money].

Nick has spent nearly four years painstakingly restoring Wapping’s Metropolitan Wharf, just a stone’s throw from the Wapping Project, to its former glory [view post].

We met Nick Capstick-Dale last week to get the facts about the Wapping Project purchase and find out what he intends to do with a Grade 2 listed old hydraulic power station site.

After visiting the Wapping Project three years ago and loving the place, Nick asked to be notified if it was ever put up for sale.

Around mid 2012 Jules Wright must have notified her agents that she wanted to sell as Nick got the call he was waiting for.

The initial asking price was too high, but after a few months Nick became aware of conversations taking place with other property developers and feared the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station would be ruined by a buyer unsympathetic to its history and heritage.

No blocks of flats, no fast food drive thru

As time passed, Nick decided that he couldn’t bear for the Wapping Wall area of Wapping to be ruined, either by a fast food drive through or other horrid development on the Wapping Project site.

So in July 2013, the original asking price was negotiated down and the Wapping Project was sold for £3.2m + VAT in what almost sounded like an impulse buy.

Vacant possession doesn’t take place until the 23rd December 2013, so only then can architectural surveys of the industrial building, site and basement area be carried out to determine what is or isn’t feasible.

Until then, firm plans for the future cannot be drawn up, but they will be shared locally as soon as there is something to share.

But Nick could describe his broad future vision for the future of the site. What about building some flats we asked?

“There are no plans to construct blocks of flats, build or create residential properties on the site,” said Nick with a look of horror when we asked about residential development.

“The land and car park area around the Power Station building will be maintained, as it’s a bit of a mess and then landscaped nicely.”

No application for a change of use is planned, meaning future uses will be within the existing commercial uses already approved. These cover theatre, performance, exhibition, cultural, leisure and associated amenities as well as use of some space as a restaurant.

So while the Wapping Project begins to fade from people’s memories, it seems highly likely something better is just around the corner for the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station.

(1) Observer, Sunday 1 December [view article]

Bringing the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station back to life

Nick believes the future success of the old industrial site means bringing it back to life and making it appealing to a wide audience so that there are always people wanting to be there. It must provide something for everyone: residents, visitors, and local workers.

Long term, the old power station site needs to cover its costs, but Nick does not have the one to two year pressure of maximising shareholder value that a listed property development company, answerable to a board and shareholders would. He doesn’t need it to make a profit, just break even ultimately. He’s in no rush.

Nick says he loves nice properties and has no plans to sell either Metropolitan Wharf or the Wapping Project. His track record to date would seem to bear this promise out.

Chatting to Nick, a regular visitor to our much loved local Italian restaurant, Il Bordello, it’s impossible to doubt his enthusiasm about Wapping – he even jokes, that if he was single he’d move here.

It’s reassuring to see the evidence from UK Real Estate’s other Wapping property investment, Metropolitan Wharf which has taken almost four years to beautifully restore and renovate, which we saw inside for ourselves last year [view post] and again last week.

Metropolitan Wharf in Wapping - interior

The beautifully restored ground floor reception area at Metropolitan Wharf in Wapping


What’s in Wapping’s opinion on the Wapping Project sale

We object to Wapping residents being called “complaining Nimbys” and blamed for the closure of the Wapping Project because it’s not true.

Time will tell, but we think Wapping has nothing to fear from the sale of the Wapping Project to UK Real Estate Ltd and potentially, a lot to gain.

Wapping residents are just as upset as Rowan Moore about the closure of the Wapping Project, but luckily for E1W, the future is looking quite bright and nothing like the cultural desert he makes out it will become.

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  • Jed Fewtrell

    Ever heard the saying ‘change is not all for the good’. In my belief there is a fine line between rejuvenating an area and gentrifying an area. I actually lived in Wapping since before Capstick-Dale or even anyone else who wanted to live in Wapping and it wasn’t an “urban waste land” as you call it, it was a nice local community for local people. I know that Wapping wasn’t a desirable to live in in the 70′s and 80′s but I’m talking about what has happened in the last ten years. When an area becomes too expensive for local people to live in whose families have lived here for years which is now the case with Wapping, that tells me that their is a problem with what is happening in the area. This problem has been created by private property developers who cater for a particular clientele which is, in my eyes, a man/woman who has a quite high salary working in the city which will lead to local people who have lived here for years and so have their families to move out. That is my point so do not twist what I have said.

  • http://lovewapping.org/ Mark Baynes

    Completely agree with Brad. Wapping Project was elitist with no attempt to involve local people. Maybe we were all just too common?

  • http://lovewapping.org/ Mark Baynes

    If the Wapping Project was such a great a place to eat why are there so many reviews of people having a rubbish meal and then being abused by staff?

  • http://lovewapping.org/ Mark Baynes

    ‘do not make comments that are simply untrue and based on NO facts or knowledge’ You mean like the Observer piece ?

  • http://lovewapping.org/ Mark Baynes

    I dont agree with your view Jed but I do look forward to your first meeting to organise people to ‘stand up to businessman like Capstick-Dale’. Let us all know when it is. Oh and I will be reminding you and everyone else attending that without people like Capstick-Dale Wapping would be an urban waste land that the world forgot. London changes all the time. That is why it is so great.

  • GE1

    The Wapping Project was an amazing place with some wonderful shows and exhibitions (like Grim(m) Desires 2004 and Making Waves 2011). I’ll miss the restaurant, it really
    was delightful to eat there, if not always perfect (let’s hope another eaterie will emerge). I’ll miss the arts space (I really hope that remains a use). I’ll miss Jules as a person for the best of what she put on (but not yet another self-commissioned work). I’ll miss the staff, and thank them for their service.

    It would have been better to have left well than to have besmirched Wapping and its people with assertions that really do not all add up, whatever the real reasons to close down. Wapping has only changed for the better in the last decade or so (and Wapping Project was part of that, so it is bizarre to bemoan the phenomenon you’ve been part of creating and that provided so much custom). The increasingly active local community would have helped take on any residents being unreasonable if reached out to. And it is simply not true that “there are no artists in Wapping anymore” (http://www.eastlondonlines.co.uk/2013/12/wapping-project-to-close-following-neighbourhood-complaints/).

    Strengthened governance arrangements that were more appropriate and effective for the charity (Women’s Playhouse Trust (WPT)) in recent years could have made a real difference to the business and the arts – and perhaps a different outcome (to sustainably meet the charity’s objective “to establish an international centre for the arts” on the site).

    The new owner has a hard act to follow, but if there is a good offer (that’s well promoted this time round) and both the building of Wapping Hydraulic Power Station and the people of Wapping are treated with respect, he will have it back in spades. And a destination that Londoners and city visitors along with locals will visit again and again. So long, and thanks, Jules. The Evening Standard report new owner Nick Capstick-Dale as ‘pledged to transform it into a vibrant community centre’ – a ‘local future’. The community awaits Nick – over to you!

  • Jed Fewtrell

    I have lived in Wapping all my life, probably the only person who has in this discussion and I for one am sick and tired of the gentrification of Wapping in recent years. As far as I am concerned, this Nick Capstick-Dale should not be in charge of the Wapping project as he will turn the place into a venue for corporate events taking away the culture and the history. It will be another home for businessman and city bankers like the rest of the Wapping Wall area and will contribute nothing to the community, just like Metropolitan Wharf, which should of been made into affordable accommodation for locals. It’s about time that local people stand up to businessman like Capstick-Dale who are intent on getting rid of the vibrant character in the east end and turning it into another west end.

  • bradclarkuk

    yes pure ego grooming and extremely poor and affected journalism.

  • Lucy Johnson

    The article in the Guardian is a disgrace as basically it is a pack of lies.

  • bradclarkuk

    Clearly I have struck a nerve – I have no doubt of the skills of the Director – I have seen some excellent shows there. My issues were more along the lines that there seemed to be no serious attempt at marketing or involving the local community.

    With a website that was almost unusable, no attempt at contacting or involving locals (signed up to mailing lists etc – never once heard a peep) – As a curator and journalist I have never once seen a mailout via the standard press routes and release lists – if you compare to other local institutions such as Wiltons et al, you would be forgiven for not even knowing TWP even existed. With such an awesome space and atmosphere this place would have been easy for the most junior of interns to market and push. Lets not even talk about TWP’s reputation on trip advisor and various other cultural sites and the various anecdotes I have heard over the years.

    You clearly have a direct role in TWP so of course you will know things that I do not – but my opinion is perfectly valid as a Wapping Resident, as an Arts professional and as an individual that is peed off with a lame excuse.

    You talk about being offended by my opinion (which it is just that, my opinion) – but more offensive is the fact that thousands of people if not millions (through national press) were deceived into thinking that it was the residents of wapping to blame and not the owners pathos/financial situation/other interests that lead to closure – this cowardice was a somewhat low blow to residents that enjoyed and looked forward to what TWP had to offer – and above all else just a plain wrong thing to do. I can’t imagine the reasons to do such a thing – ego? pride? other business interests?

    No matter what the reason, using fictional resident complaints as a reason/excuse to shutter such a great space is low rent. Those of us on the outside can only go on what we are presented with and what we were presented with was deceit.

  • Gill Hicks

    Again, I must correct you – the commissioned work was not ‘just acquaintances of the owner’ – artists were ‘discovered’ and also sort out by the Director – many international artists – many genre’s of work –

    Please – do not make comments that are simply untrue and based on NO facts or knowledge.

  • Gill Hicks

    Hello – I would love to join in and make a few things very very clear. The Wapping Project was the brain child of an extremely talented Director, Dr Jules Wright. To say that she lacked motivation or energy to make the Project a success is simply NOT true and I must say, quite offensive. I was there from day 1 – sweating, doing everything humanly possible to realise Jules’ vision. She has devoted to life for the past 13 years to the commissioning of unique works – to the constant restoration of the building and to creating not just a restaurant, but one’s of London’s finest places to enjoy a meal – to ‘experience’ – that is what she breathed into the building – she ( and I for that matter ) have cherished every brick, every inch of the magnificence of the former hydraulic station.

    Please don’t pass comment on things you know nothing about. This will be a very sad day for all whom have worked with Jules and indeed who have had the great privilege of basking in the wonderful, awe inspiring presence of such a remarkable space.

  • Matt Harris

    Something worth pointing out (that the Observer didn’t) is that the new developer will find it pretty tough to change the building or its use significantly. TWP is a Grade II* listed building, making it the third most important building in Wapping after St Peter’s Church and Tobacco Dock.

  • bradclarkuk

    Yes Christiane, there are so many of us arty types in the area it would be fantastic for there to be a venue that supports locals every now and then – i think TWP’s remit was very narrow – thats not to say it didn’t have some brilliant shows because there were some crackers – but it seemed a little too self serving and could have attracted a much wider audience if it cast its net a bit wider than just acquaintances of the owner.

  • James W

    Thanks WiW. I think everyone living here knew there are no noise complaints or problems with the Wapping Project from residents and there must be more to it. Let’s hope the new owner does it justice.

  • Christiane

    Yes, I agree with Brad, great investigative work WIW and thank you Nick Capstick-Dale for taking such good care of Wapping. As for the future; as an artist, I’d like to see local artists in residence.

  • bradclarkuk

    I think the power station will finally get the owner it deserves and it’s future does look good. I’m sure there will be a lot more motivation and drive to make it work as, in it’s previous form, there never seemed to be the will or energy to make it a success.

    Nice but if investigation work WIW!!

  • http://www.robbiescott.com/ Robert Scott

    Thanks for your excellent detective work, always good to have facts and figures.

  • Julija Svetlova

    well, whatever happens, I just hope that new owner will come up with something interesting. I will miss the gallery though, Jules did a very good job .

  • Mike Smith

    I thought it was strange when I read the previous news. I think it’s completely reasonable if Jules was tired of the project and wanted to move on (she certainly seemed less enthusiastic the last few times I went there) but it is shame that there wasn’t obvious complete honesty about the transfer. Having said that, there was also controversy around the development of Metropolitan Wharf (pushing out former tenants who had a low rent) so for me the jury is still out on the future of this wonderful building. And it may have been a wonderful art space, but given that it wasn’t made wheelchair accessible (only the restaurant was) it still wasn’t a wonderful space for ALL of the local community. Fingers crossed for the future.