Canary Wharf is located on the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs.
From 1802 to 1939, the area was one of the busiest docks in the world. After the 1960s, the port industry began to decline, leading to all the docks being closed by 1980. Of the three main docks of the West India Docks, the Canary Wharf estate occupies part of the north side and the entire south side of the Import Dock (North Dock), both sides of the Export Dock (Middle Dock) and the north side of the South Dock.
Canary Wharf itself takes its name from No. 32 berth of the West Wood Quay of the Import Dock. This was built in 1936 for Fruit Lines Ltd, a subsidiary of Fred Olsen Lines for the Mediterranean and Canary Islands fruit trade. The Canary islands were so named after the large dogs found there by the Spanish (Gran Canaria from Canine) and as it is located on the Isle of Dogs, the quay and warehouse were given the name Canary Wharf.
After the docks closed in 1980, the British Government adopted policies to stimulate redevelopment of the area, including the creation of the London Docklands Development Corporation in 1981 and the granting of Urban Enterprise Zone status to the Isle of Dogs in 1982.
The project was sold to the Canadian company Olympia & York and construction began in 1988, master-planned by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill with Yorke Rosenberg Mardall as their UK advisors, and subsequently by Koetter Kim. The first buildings were completed in 1991, including One Canada Square, which became the UK’s tallest building at the time and a symbol of the regeneration of Docklands. By the time it opened, the London commercial property market had collapsed, and Olympia and York Canary Wharf Limited filed for bankruptcy in May 1992.
Initially, the City of London saw Canary Wharf as an existential threat. It modified its planning laws to expand the provision of new offices in the City of London, for example, creating offices above railway stations (Blackfriars) and roads (Alban Gate). The resulting oversupply of office space contributed to the failure of the No 1 Canada Square project.
In 1997, some residents living on the Isle of Dogs launched a lawsuit against Canary Wharf Ltd for private nuisance because the tower interfered with television signals. The residents lost the case.
In December 1995 an international consortium, backed by the former owners of Olympia & York and other investors, bought the scheme. The new company was called Canary Wharf Limited, and later became Canary Wharf Group.
Recovery in the property market generally, coupled with continuing demand for large floorplate Grade A office space, slowly improved the level of interest. A critical event in the recovery was the much-delayed start of work on the Jubilee Line Extension, which the government wanted ready for the Millennium celebrations.
In March 2004, Canary Wharf Group plc. was taken over by a consortium of investors, backed by its largest shareholder Glick Family Investments and led by Morgan Stanley using a vehicle named Songbird Estates plc.
At the peak of property prices in 2007, the HSBC building sold for a record £1.1 billion.
In March 2014 planning permission was granted for the second residential building on the Canary Wharf estate, a 58-storey tower including 566 apartments plus shops and a health club.
In July 2014 Canary Wharf Group was granted planning permission for a major eastwards expansion of the Canary Wharf estate. The plans include the construction of 30 buildings comprising a total of 4.9 million square feet, including shops, 1.9 million square feet of commercial offices and 3,100 homes. Construction is planned to commence in autumn 2014 with the first buildings to be occupied at the end of 2018.
In 2014, Singapore listed Oxley Holdings, together with developer Ballymore UK, have a joint venture to set up a new waterfront township of Royal Wharf with 3385 new homes housing over 10,000 people