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Critic’s Notebook: London’s New Subway Symbolized the Future. Then Came Brexit.

From Heathrow, riders will need just over a half-hour via Crossrail to travel east to Canary Wharf, the defunct docklands turned world financial hub, which today employs more than 112,000 people. When the site opened in the late 1980s, the aptly named Narrow Street was its only real access road. Canary Wharf went belly up. Then London broke ground for the Jubilee subway line, linking Canary Wharf by mass transit to the heart of the city, and international banks started moving in.

This is one reason George Iacobescu, Canary Wharf’s longtime chairman, helped lead the push for Crossrail. “London’s future prosperity depends on it,” he said. He summoned me into a big, bright white office where he stood behind a giant tabletop display of London (think Goldfinger’s model of Fort Knox). Mr. Iacobescu flicked switches on the table. One by one, they lit up various rail lines that today serve Canary Wharf, each line coinciding with increases in jobs and revenues. Theatrically, he paused before the last switch.

It illuminated Crossrail.

“We are home to many of the world’s great financial institutions,” Mr. Iacobescu said, pointing on the model to where Foster & Partners, the celebrated London-based architecture firm, has designed Canary Wharf’s Crossrail Station, a spectacular glass and timber tubular structure, docked like a giant cruise ship beside the firm’s HSBC tower. Nearby, Canary Wharf plans to build thousands of new luxury (and some affordable) homes and other developments by high-end architects like Herzog & de Meuron to turn Canary Wharf into more of a neighborhood. “We expect to create thousands more jobs,” Mr. Iacobescu said.

“The danger with Brexit,” he added, “is that if Britain gets out of the European Union and doesn’t keep the U.K. an attractive place for financial institutions, they will think twice about growing here. The issue isn’t banks leaving Canary Wharf. Most of them have long-term leases. The issue will be the pace of growth.”

Source: NYT > World

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