It's always a good idea to meet the neighbors when you move into a new property. That's especially the case when the home you are developing is set to become the largest single building in London at 131 meters high and sits next to a neighborhood mass of thousands of people and a famous arts center. The trouble is, what happens if your neighbors have already taken a disliking to you?
JPMorgan seems to be facing this scenario in London. Last year, the bank decided against moving to the (relatively) newer Canary Wharf estate in the Docklands area of London, and where Citi, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Lehman Brothers, HSBC and Barclays are already based.
Instead, it opted to put the majority of its employees, from seven locations across the city, into one centralized HQ being developed on the site of the 1960s St Alphage House on London Wall, close to the Barbican, a 1960s estate comprising 2,000 apartments and an arts center.
The City of London (the planning authority and manager of the Barbican estate) was delighted with Morgan's decision, of course. The last thing it wanted was to lose another Wall Street name to the cheaper Canary Wharf location. However the bank's decision has landed the City and JP Morgan in a tricky public relations act.
The residents of the nearby Barbican estate (just one block from the offices of PERE magazine) are unhappy with the plans to say the least. And as the Barbican houses a vast majority of financial services professionals, their voice needs to be listened to.
The main objection is loss of privacy – as chairman of the Barbicans Association, David Graves, reportedly told a building magazine: “Apart from overshadowing, light pollution and privacy issues, we're being walled in and cut off.” A recent meet-the-neighbors session also didn't go according to plan. The architect was reportedly heckled at the meeting while a spokesman for the company, Kohn Pedersen Fox, warned: “In a democracy I would expect there to be a balance between economic interests of the City and the needs of residents.” With the planning application for the scheme due this month, it looks like JPMorgan is going to have a harder time getting a European HQ than buying an investment bank in crisis.
It is not known if any former Bear Stearns employees live in the Barbican.