In 1981 the U.K. government found itself saddled with a dilapidated spread of dockyards in the East End of London the husks of a long-gone shipping hub.
Commercial activity at the West India Docks once the busiest in the world had dwindled to almost nothing by 1980, and the government seized the land in hopes of revitalization.
Within a decade, skyscraper One Canada Square began rising on site, a global icon now synonymous with Canary Wharf.
Land no one wanted has become a precious commodity.
Qatar Investment Authority and Canadian investment group Brookfield Property Partners acquired the majority of the financial district in 2015 for £2.6 billion (then $3.9 billion), buying out shareholders in management company Canary Wharf Group (CWG). The estate has thrived in recent years due to a shortage of nearby commercial real estate, and that tight supply looks set to continue. Canary Wharf has only one building under construction, according to a report by estate agents Knight Frank. And 1 Bank Street which will add 700,000 square feet of prime office space will not be completed until 2019.
Other sites could be built upon, the report said, but CWGs management team is reluctant without a tenant agreed to in advance. CWG did not respond to a request for comment.
Those looking to snap up a piece of the Wharf had an opportunity in March, when part-owner Brookfield asked property agents Jones Lang LaSalle to sell 20 Canada Square. Oil giant BP and media group McGraw Hill occupy the 556,000-square-foot office block. It produces a 5.25 percent net investment yield, according to Knight Frank, for a capital value of £720 per square foot. Not bad for a former ward of the state.