Denizen Property Investors Go To Hell!

Disingenuous promotional materials designed to flog Taylor Wimpey’s Gerrymander Mansions development in Golden Lane have just appeared. The official name of this as yet unbuilt monstrosity that will block sunlight from a park, schools and social housing, is The Denizen. The brochure for these ‘luxury’ apartments makes it clear that they are being marketed as ghost homes for overseas buyers who will purchase off-plan, with hotel-like services in the building should they ever chose to visit their buy-to-leave investment. Here’s an example of a barefaced lie from Taylor Wimpey’s Denizen brochure:

The Barbican is the ancient heart of the City of London, a place steeped in history. During the 17th century, it attracted the entrepreneurial, the conspiring and the artistic. In the area’s many coffeehouses, plans were laid, and great minds met. William Shakespeare, Ben Johnson and John Milton all worked here. It’s a legacy we see today in the Barbican Centre and the City’s enterprising spirit. The Denizen by Taylor Wimpey.

The Barbican Complex is actually a world-class example of brutalist architecture built around fifty years ago. It is located in a neighbourhood called Cripplegate, and it lies beyond the original city wall; obviously this is not ‘the ancient heart of the City of London’ because it was not actually a part of the original city at all, it lay outside it! Likewise, in Shakespeare and Johnson’s time the area was notorious for its brothels. This is why Johnson among others refers to the place as Pict-hatch; which was also the name for the studded split entry doors that were a feature of bawdy houses of that time. Taylor Wimpey should be reported to the Advertising Standards Authority for their blatant misrepresentation of Cripplegate Without’s location and history!

Estate agents Knight Frank are pre-selling Gerrymander Mansions on their website with spin similar to that found in the Taylor Wimpey brochure:

Denizen is the city’s newest residential development in the heart of the city. Located on Golden Lane overlooking Fortune Park, next to the Barbican, Denizen will be home to studios 1, 2 and 3 bed homes. Residents will be at the crossroads of Farringdon, Clerkenwell and Shoreditch surrounded by culture, arts Michelin star restaurants and luxury retail shops. Knight Frank website.

Neither Knight Frank nor Taylor Wimpey seem at all interested in the fact this development stands next to the Golden Lane Estate, an ensemble of council housing blocks; and that there is also an enormous amount of Peabody Trust social housing nearby. Some of Taylor Wimpey’s computer generated images of Gerrymander Mansions stop at the northern edge of The Denizen, so as not to include the Bowater House council block that stands right next to it.

Spa Nails – or The Driller Killer as it is known to locals – offers high-class luxury beauty treatments at knockdown prices.

Likewise, there are actually surprisingly few shops in the immediate area, and none that we’ve ever considered to be ‘luxury retail’ outlets despite Knight Frank claiming The Denizen is ‘surrounded’ by them. Nonetheless, Spa Nails lies just a one minute walk east from the Gerrymander Mansions site. Formerly Cammy’s Nail Bar, this cheap and cheerful beauty parlour is a local legend because its male ‘caretaker’ has been known to brandish a battery operated power drill as he confronts those who’ve taken photographs inside the establishment and very insistently demands they delete any images they’ve grabbed. While being threatened with a power tool might be the kind of ‘retail therapy’ the ghost home investors Taylor Wimpey is pitching its development at deserve, it probably isn’t the one they’re looking for.

City Hardware, Goswell Road
City Hardware, an outstanding example of Cripplegate’s ‘luxury retail shops’.

To the west, the nearest shop to Gerrymander Mansions is City Hardware, an ironmongers run by the Benscher family. Not only can you buy everything you’ll need for your DIY home improvements, if you ask for it you’ll get excellent free advice; it is also where professional builders from across London lay in supplies. The family running the store are incredibly friendly but we’d never thought of City Hardware as a luxury retail outlet until we saw the hype about The Denizen. The same goes for John Horwood’s greengrocers just down from this shop.

City Hardware, Goswell Road
Paul Benscher of City Hardware who provides luxury retail service with a smile!

City Hardware, Goswell Road
City Hardware, an outstanding example of Cripplegate’s ‘luxury retail shops’ – just say Knight Frank sent you!

City Hardware, Goswell Road
John Horwood outside his luxury greengrocers. Apologies for putting words in the mouth of a diamond geezer but after reading what Knight Frank and Taylor Wimpey have to say about Cripplegate and Finsbury as a way of hyping The Denizen, this looks like it should be captioned: “The rich can’t get enough of my handcrafted disposable buttplugs.”

Two minutes walk east from Gerrymander Mansions is the men’s clothes stall on Whitecross Street, which sells the brands favoured by soccer casuals at a fraction of the price they go for in regular shops. We feel sure those with enough dough to buy a Taylor Wimpey luxury apartment will feel even better about themselves once they’re geared up in cut-price hooligan clobber. Among the other shops closest to Gerrymander Mansions are Barbican News (a regular newsagent), Ryman stationers, and various fast food outlets selling fish and chips, pies, pizzas and kebabs. The best thing about the ‘luxury retail shops’ that ‘surround’ The Denizen is that they flog their wares at proletarian prices! Now there’s something any rich scumbag ought to appreciate!

Stall selling luxury football hooligan clobber at bargain basement prices and a high class retail outlet for beautiful things such as National Lottery tickets on Whitecross Street, two minutes walk from Gerrymander Mansions/The Denizen.

So if you think this locality matches the hype surrounding Gerrymander Mansions, then you’re probably an estate agent or working for Taylor Wimpey:

Discover the life within. The City is London’s innermost layer. And it’s here you’ll find The Denizen – a sophisticated collection of new apartments offering elegant living spaces, tranquil outdoor retreats, premium amenities and impeccable service. Denizen [noun]. A person who inhabits or regularly frequents a particular place. The Denizen by Taylor Wimpey.

Should those buying into this fantasy actually visit their investment property they may come to regret that a former police section house was knocked down to create their luxury apartment. When there were cops living on site there were very few problems with junkies and teenage gangs in the immediate area, because the filth came down on them like a ton of bricks if they caused a nuisance in their manor. That said, the boys in blue were prone to noising-up the neighbours by returning home from the pub in drunken packs, and cranking up to ridiculous levels tunes by The Sex Pistols and other rock bands when they worked-out in their basement. But at least there was less of a problem with masses of used syringes being left in the local park and drug dealers using the phone box on the corner of Golden Lane and Fann Street to make calls; this is where the former police section house currently still stands even if it is under threat of imminent demolition to make way for The Denizen!

Computer generated image of Gerrymander Mansions seen from Fortune Street Park; this doesn’t show how the building will block sunlight from this public open space and cause its greenery to wither – it ‘is indicative only.’

While Taylor Wimpey uses The Denizen’s proximity to Fortune Street Park as a selling point in its computer generated graphics, these images don’t show how their over-scaled development will completely block winter sun from this small patch of green. Beyond The Barbican Centre and the park it is about to rob of light, Taylor Wimpey don’t have too much to say about most of the community amenities in the immediate area, with social housing being prominent among these omissions. Instead they pull in a couple of rent-a-quote idiots who recommend abandoning local pleasures in favour of those found in the neighbouring borough of Tower Hamlets (where almost half of all children live in poverty, the highest rate in London):

Gary Foulkes – Executive Chef….“I always enjoy walking around Spitalfields Market and Commercial Street and usually end up in Som Saa for dinner.”… Emily Butler… Whitechapel Gallery… “With so much culture in the area, I’d recommend a trip to The Whitechapel Refectory, to revive over a coffee and a gooey chocolate brownie.’ The Denizen by Taylor Wimpey.

‘Executive’ Chef Gary Foulkes describes the best way to flip a burger.

One assumes that actual celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsay were either unavailable or too expensive for Taylor Wimpey, which is why they got in Gary Foulkes. Likewise, while the Whitechapel Gallery is indeed a relatively important London art institution, since its expansion its public image has been totally dominated by director Iwona Blazwick. Emily Butler has yet to make much impression, being barely known inside the London art world, let alone outside it. She was recently promoted from being an assistant curator and has a pretty low position in the gallery’s pecking order. Leaving aside Blazwick, Butler is also totally eclipsed by Omar Kholeif whose job she took over when he moved on to bigger things, and the likes of Whitechapel Chief Curator Lydia Yee. The fact that Taylor Wimpey are seeking to impress potential ghost home buyers with a quote from Butler is indicative of the fact that they believe those they are swindling know absolutely nothing about art or indeed London. See also brochure claims such as: “Shoreditch is home to London’s largest collection of modern and contemporary art spaces, including the world-renowned Whitechapel Gallery.” Needless to say the Whitechapel Gallery is not in Shoreditch, but in a neighbouring area called ‘of all things’, Whitechapel!

Taylor Wimpey’s promotional effort is clearly aimed at wealthy but culturally unsophisticated ghost home investors who are likely to buy-off plan without ever visiting the property or the area it is located in. ‘Projected’ onto the screen in the computer simulated graphic of The Denizen’s private cinema is a picture of Daniel Craig playing James Bond in Skyfall; with this actor standing in front of an Aston Martin close to Bond’s fictional ancestral home in the highlands of Scotland. This superannuated choice of pop-cultural image to signify ‘Britishness’ and ‘class’ is telling. Despite their styling being ostentatious bling, Taylor Wimpey are pretending they’re selling something ‘elegant’ and ‘sophisticated’ (both words are found in their brochure):

The Denizen is much more than a beautiful home. Through the provision of wonderful communal spaces, it invites relaxation, offers entertainment and welcomes guests. All communal spaces have been thoughtfully designed by Alexander James. Design and detail make the difference. With the interiors of our apartments and communal areas, our designers have achieved an eloquent articulation of contemporary City luxury. Using meticulously chosen materials and finishes, light, colour, texture and tone blend harmoniously to create an atmosphere that both uplifts and calms. The Denizen by Taylor Wimpey.

In other words the tacky interiors are reassuringly expensive but aesthetically cheap; and while Taylor Wimpey include lines in their brochure such as ‘you are part of something special’, the inept design positively screams that anyone who buys into this hokey development is bottom-of-the-barrel mundane. Stacey Sibley, who heads the ‘creative’ division at Alexander James and is thus responsible for The Denizen’s décor, promotes herself as ‘the designer with the dogs’ because she likes to bang on about her precious pooches; but it would be more accurate to call her the ‘designer’ who has thrown good taste to the dogs.

Empress of the Tawdry: Stacey Sibley of Alexander James Interiors.

Computer generated image of the resident’s communal playroom in Gerrymander Mansions.

Just in case potential purchasers of these buy-to-leave investments are aspirational parents or have a bored spouse, Taylor Wimpey list some of the educational institutions to be found in central London in their Denizen sales brochure: University College London, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, King’s College London, London School of Economics, City University of London, Cass Business School, Central Saint Martins art school. And while inflated optimism about the investment ‘potential’ of these luxury apartments is their ultimate selling point, the penultimate one is their pretentious architect:

Allford Hall Monaghan Morris is an award-winning international practice known for thinking beyond bricks and mortar and creating places where people can live, work and flourish. With their London offices just a few hundred yards from The Denizen, they have close, well-established ties with this corner of the capital.

AHMM’s work has consistently attracted the attention of awards’ juries around the world, with their many accolades including the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize for the Burntwood School in Wandsworth in 2015 and the RIBA Award for Architecture for their redevelopment of the Barbican Art Centre.

In the vibrant heart of the City of London, an area rich in culture and architectural history, The Denizen offers a calm, sophisticated environment that delivers the very best of modern city living.

A contemporary and elegant landmark, it was crucial that The Denizen felt like more than a piece of architecture. With every detail considered, it is a haven for residents to unwind, with private terraces perfect for a morning coffee in the summer sun.

Green space is plentiful, with a landscaped courtyard and sunken gardens. The accompanying pocket park offers a secluded area away from the hustle and bustle of The City, as does the screening room. A private residents’ lounge and games room cement The Denizen as a home where residents can both relax and socialise.

The Denizen reflects AHMM’s commitment to making places as well as buildings; environments that are a joy to experience because they work for the people who inhabit them. The Denizen by Taylor Wimpey.

Yeah right, and if you think Gerrymander Mansions is elegant then you probably view Longaberger’s Home Office in Ohio as classy as well. Moving on, what Taylor Wimpey’s brochure doesn’t mention is that Gerrymander Mansions architect AHMM were unceremoniously dumped immediately after planning permission for the development went through. See below:

Longaberger’s Home Office, Newark, Ohio. The firm manufacture and distribute ‘handcrafted’ maple wood baskets.

AHMM has been removed from a housing scheme near the Barbican – only the second time director Paul Monaghan has failed to be novated on a project in his 27 years at the practice

The AJ100 practice had drawn up plans for the 99-flat scheme in Golden Lane, which scraped through planning last month despite opposition from local residents and the Twentieth Century Society.

A spokesperson from Taylor Wimpey, the developer behind the controversial 11,113m² scheme, confirmed that AHMM was ’no longer working on the project’, adding that Belfast-based architect White Ink had instead been appointed by its contractor to deliver the scheme.

Monaghan told the AJ he felt let down by the decision… ‘This is only the second time in more than 27 years that this has happened to me – namely not being novated. Given that the project is so near our office and is on such a sensitive site, we do hope that the interpretation of our planning drawings is maintained.’..

The planning application for the building, which ranges from four to 10 storeys in height, received 182 objections, including those from the Twentieth Century Society and Barbican residents.

The society has hit out at the plans in Golden Lane, around a third of a mile north of the Barbican Centre, because they involve the demolition of the 1960-built Bernard Morgan House.

The former Metropolitan Police building, which has been vacant since April 2015, was designed by J Innes Elliott.

Twentieth Century Society conservation adviser Tess Pinto said: ‘Bernard Morgan House (BMH) represents a modest yet sophisticated strand of post-war Modernism that is still massively underappreciated, as this decision proves.

‘In this part of the City of London, close to Golden Lane and the Barbican, the character of the area is of note for this particular quality of post-war architecture and for the sensitive spatial planning of the whole, which the massive replacement development at BMH will impact.’….

In a letter to Historic England in 2015, the society supported a listing bid for Bernard Morgan House, stating that it was ‘remarkable for its architectural detailing’, which was similar to that of the neighbouring Grade II-listed Bowater House. It claimed it was ‘probably the first Modernist post-war police section house, and the last to be constructed for the Met’…

John Whitehead, a resident of Breton House on the Barbican estate, described the plans in an objection letter as ‘ugly and inappropriate’ for the area.

A number of local residents also objected to the scheme over concerns that they would result in a loss of daylight to neighbouring properties such as Bowater House…

A cash-in-lieu payment of £4.5 million towards off-site affordable housing will be paid by Taylor Wimpey as part of the conditions for the scheme.

The planning report states that ‘this level of contribution is below the target set by the local plan, but it is the maximum feasible and viable contribution that could be made and therefore is acceptable under local plan policy CS21 and the London Plan’.

Some 29 objections were received by the City of London on the grounds that the scheme included no on-site affordable housing.

AHMM elbowed off contentious scheme near Barbican by Ella Braidwood, Architects’ Journal, 26 July, 2017.

So there you have it, you can’t fool all the people all the time, but it seems Taylor Wimpey can fool enough off-plan property investors to make ghost home developments like Gerrymander Mansions worthwhile. Given Taylor Wimpey’s recent involvement in leasehold scandals and the fact that if The Denizen is completed the service charges for its hotel-like amenities are gonna be whopping, this looks like one investment that will cost those suckered into it an arm and a leg!

Pippa Henslowe.


AHMM elbowed off contentious scheme near Barbican:

The photographs of City Hardware and John Horwood’s shop are by Patricia Niven and were taken from Spitalfields Life:

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