The Arc development – bringing a New York approach to London’s east end

PropertyWire speaks to Marie-Julie Gheysens, who played a prominent role in launching The Arc development in London’s Shoreditch, consisting of a 22-storey tower containing over 100 one to three bedroom homes.

Gheysens, 29, is head of UK, international business development at Ghelamco, having joined her family business in 2020. She moved from Belgium to London at the age of 17, and has since made Britain her second home.

Marie-Julie Gheysens

It was Gheysens who pushed for Ghelamco to enter the UK market. The firm also operates in Belgium, Poland, France and Cyprus.

With The Arc development she took inspiration from mixed use developments in the US. Gheysens seems particularly fond of New York’s meatpacking district and Hudson Yards, which mix shops, offices and residences.

She said: “In New York there’s a certain charm to it, particularly the meatpacking district.

“A lot of it is pedestrianised with access to retail – they think almost horizontal. There will be a coworking space on the left, streets in between, then a creative studio.

“In the UK I feel there is a lack of amenities in one building. It feels so clean. Some developers are good at creating hotels, but there’s not much in terms of mixed use developments.”

On the ground floor of the development there are three different retail stores, including a Japanese sake bar, UFC gym and a Japanese store called Tian Tian – as Gheysens explained that she wants people who come into the area to have something to explore in every direction.

The London development follows the New York model of mixing glass towers with brickwork.

Gheysens added: “We are very visual, and we like to feel the energy of an area. What is the mood? I’m a person that gets energy from an energetic area.”

The Arc has nearly 150,000 square feet of tech-focused office space from floors one to six. There’s apartments from level seven, which is also where amenities and a roof terrace are located. Show apartments are situated on the 13th floor.

Many of its interiors have unusual designs, as Gheysens was also inspired by her love of Star Wars when driving the project forwards.

Residents and amenities

The Arc is located in the Old Street/Shoreditch area, which has become a thriving area known for welcoming tech firms.

Gheysens said: “The location is something I am keen to push out. The Old Street area keeps blossoming. New coffee shops are popping up all the time.

“With what we are doing it’s only going to prosper even more.”

The Arc contains an aftercare team – which Gheysens says will be key to supporting the mental health of those in the building.

She estimated that in the development around half of the homes have been purchased for investment, and half owner-occupied.

There is a focus on energy efficiency, as each floor of the building has energy monitoring. There are also numerous soap dispensers, as Gheysens admits she is something of a clean freak herself.

Residents will start moving in from the Spring.

According to Savills, the properties at The Arc have a guide price between £900,000 and £1.24 million.

Returning to the office

Launching a new development with commercial office space seems a brave move in the current climate, given that the pandemic has ushered in a period where more people work from home, or use the hybrid model.

However Gheysens reckons this trend is now going in reverse – more people are returning to the office, as firms strive for better productivity.

She said: “There’s a big return to the office, and it’s not necessarily voluntary.

“Some big corporations are saying you might not get your promotion if you never come to the office – firms like CitiBank, Facebook and Tik Tok.

“Since January they have been making decisions they previously wouldn’t dare make because they’d be worried about retaining talent.

“When banks see that they start financing the office market again. Now they are picking up the phone, and yields will improve again.”

Gheysens added that there’s actually a lack of prime stock, making The Arc an ideal location, being situated in London’s Zone 1.

Belgian golf course with Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus

One very different development on the horizon from Ghelamco is a Belgian golf resort.

Gheysens said the firm has been working with golfing legend Jack Nicklaus to launch the development, which is slated to host an all-female competition down the line.

The development will contain a golf course as well as attract people for meetings and events – while the plan is for it to open in 2025.

Ghelamco labels a development called ‘Katelijne’ on its website.

It reads: “The prestigious Residential building “Katelijne” is situated in Knokke-Zoute and is one of the most striking developments on Kustlaan.

“Residential building “Katelijne” is also part of the strategy and further expansion of the Ghelamco Group into luxury residential property.

“Security and comfort are just some of the outstanding features of this residential building that also has an underground garage complex.

“Adjoining the golf course and 100 metres from the beach, the project is the only one of its kind in terms of location and finish.”

Ghelamco didn’t confirm or deny whether this was the golf resort development referred to by Gheysens.

Future plans – second London development

In terms of their ambitions in England, Ghelamco seems focused on the London market as opposed to the rest of the UK, as a new development in the capital has just been announced.

The firm has acquired The HiLight on the banks of the River Thames in Battersea, a 250,500 sq ft former candle factory that will be transformed into waterfront living.

Wandsworth Borough Council has approved planning for 113 one-to-three bedroom luxury apartments.

Role model

On a personal note, Gheysens wants to inspire other women into the industry.

She said: “When I go to lenders like Goldman Sachs, you need to be a strong person and stand your ground and believe that everything is possible, never take no for an answer basically.”

Gheysens added: “I spend a lot of time on construction sites with lots of men.

“For me it’s about me being an inspiring person who works hard – and I hope that gives girls a feeling that anything is possible.

“It’s something that we want to work on more, because women in construction can achieve so much given that confidence.”