UP ON THE ROOF ON THE 35TH FLOOR OF ILFORD'S PIONEER POINT
Why do I keep thinking I’m going to fall through an imaginary hole 367ft up in the sky? My eye is darting from London landmark to London landmark when my heart skips a beat as I imagine a slab under my feet moves. It feels as if it jolts half a millimetre but it is enough to make me want to hold on to something, or someone, just in case. But as my irrational fear is kicked in to touch by the more sensible part of my brain, I enjoy the unique view.
Not many people will stand on Ilford’s highest point, with views stretching for miles. The old, Canary Wharf, is as visible as the new, the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. Ilford’s Winston Way roundabout looks as busy as usual and there is an all too predictable blob of people rushing in and out of newly opened Primark. But I don’t think I ever realised how many brown houses there are! Rows of them stretch for what seems like miles from one vantage point on the roof of Pioneer Point’s North Building. Getting to the roof was a bit of a challenge for the less nimble among us, a category I fall into. Every other step is missing – a ploy seemingly aimed at forcing me into a heap of nerves.
Stunning views But we carefully negotiated this test as we made our way to the top of the 35-storey building. Its neighbouring South Building is 26-stories tall. It is a dizzying feeling and I have to ask workmen with me where exactly the lower South Building is. While the roof vantage point will not be accessible to the building’s residents, they will be afforded stunning views of London, with glass windows spanning the height of each apartment, from the floor to the ceiling. The busy activity seen daily of workmen constructing the two towers (no, not the one from the Lord of the Rings), has moved largely indoors as the apartments start to be fitted out. There will be 294 in total, made up almost entirely with one and two bedrooms. We are shown a couple of the apartments as workmen start putting floorboards across what will be the living room. There is still plenty of work to do but the people overseeing the works are confident the “vast majority” of it will be complete by the end of the year. The command centre, positioned between three floors of what will become commercial units, is filled with offices for workmen and sub-contractors. There is a canteen and changing rooms and walls plastered with drawings and diagrams which I attempt to glean information from. It is one of those moments when you realise that you have no idea what the information in front of you means, but you carry on pretending to look, to appear smart. My head, not used to the weight of a hard hat, is beginning to give up the fight as we are taken to the commercial part on the bottom three floors.
Restaurants The middle floor will be for restaurants, and I am told a “single operator” is interested in running the whole floor. An escalator, already installed, will allow pedestrians to get access to the floor. It is one of the few moments during my tour where you can really imagine the building up and running, and people stepping off Ilford Hill and in to Pioneer Point, to shop, eat and maybe have a workout at a gym. As I take my high visibility coat off, pluck the helmet off my worn-out head and dispatch with my special Pioneer Point tour shoes, I crane my neck up for one quick look at the two towers. There is no question it will be a landmark for Ilford, now the time is fast approaching for it to open its doors to the public.