With Crossrail, a new Woolwich is being generated, and is set to become one of London’s most sought after cultural hubs. Like all of London, Woolwich’s history is one of change and development, closely associated with the Royal Artillery and Engineering Corps.
In Woolwich’s dockyards, Henry VIIIs flagship and later Charles Darwin’s Beagle were built. After the closure of the docks, Woolwich was dominated by the Royal Military Academy, Ordinance Factories and Artillery Barracks. In total, Woolwich boasts over 60 of Greenwich’s listed buildings, many of which are triumphs of Edwardian Baroque and Modern Architecture. The majority of these buildings form part of the Royal Arsenal area, and are at the centre of the Royal Arsenal Riverside development.
Twenty years ago, much of the Woolwich riverside area was derelict, brownfield land. Since then the area has undergone a huge physical transformation. Modern apartment and retail areas mix with restored and refurbished Georgian buildings. Amongst these are gastropubs, cafes, restaurants, paved squares and landscaped gardens.
Creating London’s newest cultural hub
Woolwich is establishing itself as a cultural and creative hub. In the new Cultural Quarter (due to open in December 2018 to coincide with Crossrail) Dash Arts will become the resident artistic and acting group, while younger generations of dancers and actors are created at the Academy of Performing Arts.
The area is developing a reputation as a foodie hotspot with a vast variety of drinking and dining choices. Woolwich’s four new pubs (Dial Arch, The Guardhouse, Equitable and the Taproom) are accompanied by cafes, new restaurants and a street food festival. With the addition of a new 450 seat theatre, Woolwich offers food, drink and entertainment for every taste. The transformation of Woolwich is about creating spaces and places for people, as much as creating homes and cultural venues.
When the transformation of Woolwich is complete, Spray Street will be converted into a pedestrian quarter. Described as the ‘beating heart of Woolwich’, this area will house 650 new homes, offices, shops, cafes, a cinema and public spaces. At the same time, Love Lane and Thomas Street will feature a pocket park, cafes and bars. Gordon Square, which currently features Woolwich’s ‘Big Screen’, will be further developed to include a brand new leisure centre. These dining and cultural destinations will further enhance Woolwich’s cultural credentials, which already include the annual Tall Ships festival, an international film festival, a food festival and the Greenwich+Woolwich Festival of the Moon.
Greenwich is undergoing substantial regeneration. Since the announcement of the Crossrail route, 15 schemes have completed, delivering 2,600 units. There are currently eight schemes under construction, which are due to deliver 2,000 homes. Looking forward, there are 12 schemes in planning, which should add a further 3,000 units to the Woolwich stock.
This regeneration is showing up in house prices. Over the past five years, SE18 apartment prices have risen by 71%.
SE18, the district which includes Woolwich, shows average apartment prices in 2017 of £316,000. This is considerably below the average for the Borough of Greenwich of £359,800 and the Lewisham average of £361,129 or Tower Hamlets, across the Thames from Woolwich, which averaged £466,486 in 2017.
The regeneration of Woolwich has also had a positive effect on house price forecasts. While house prices in Greenwich are lower than those in surrounding boroughs, house prices are expected to grow at a faster pace (15.1%) than Lewisham (13.2%) and London (13.8%) over the next five years.