London is back! But, given the past few months, have citizens even noticed?
This has been the busiest start to summer London has seen in more than a decade—with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Royal Ascot, RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Wimbledon, Boris’s resignation and, in the worst kind of end to summer, the Queen’s death and weeks of mourning.
Of course the eyes of the world were fixed on London throughout all the tumult more than any other city—save for maybe Kyiv—reminding everyone that London is spectacular and it’s been a really long while since they visited. Not that the city’s promotion engine was waning. The city still tops our Promotions category, coming out in front for Insta hashtags, Facebook (or is it Meta) check-ins and TripAdvisor reviews.
Fortunately the city is almost back to pre-pandemic capacity, if the tube is any indication. The London Underground Night Tube reopened over the summer while certain lines are slowly restoring all service, with the Piccadilly line the last to have come online in August.
Despite much-warranted hand-wringing about the flight of talent and capital due to the pall of Brexit (and the follow-up specter of an airborne pandemic), London is hanging in just fine, relying on a dipping currency to attract investment and, of course, previously priced-out tourists. And new residents. New wealthy residents who can now afford to check off a big item on the multi-millionaire bucket list: property in the best city on the planet.
An astonishing 61 luxury London properties—each worth $11.5 million or more—were sold in the first six months of 2022, which was the highest number in a decade.
The highest-profile new residents include Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri, who may have come for the most #1 rankings of any city in our Top 100—from Culture to Nightlife, but stayed for another of London’s assets: the best-educated citizenry on the planet. And available at a relative discount to Silicon Valley and New York. As much is confirmed by salary site Glassdoor, which estimates an average Meta software engineer in London can expect to earn just over $102,000 versus $169,000 in San Francisco. The tech giant is in the process of building its largest global engineering base in two offices in London’s King’s Cross neighborhood. The first, at 11-21 Canal Reach, opened in early 2022 after a three-year build designed by Bennetts Associates with interiors by TP Bennett based on a concept design by Gehry Partners. A second building opened a few months later to bring the new office space to 425,000 square feet. Plus, of course, a 42,000-square-foot rooftop park for what will likely be almost 10,000 employees in a few years.
Another reason for Meta’s entrenchment? Mortal enemy TikTok has prioritized London for years and just started a 15-year lease on an entire office block at Farringdon Crossrail station.
These seismic moves have dislodged the pandemic blockage for the global investment torrent into London. According to fDi Markets, the Financial Times’ foreign investment tracker, London has pulled in the most foreign direct investments into tech from international companies since 2018, ahead of New York, Singapore and Dubai.
Of course none of this happens without the sustained facilitation of London & Partners, London’s official publicity arm, and the economic development organization that works to offer financial perks for all that relocation.
Recent tax incentives have included the lowest corporation tax rate among G7 countries and a cornucopia of research and development tax credits.
A recent report from real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield illustrated the run on London: of the 398 central London leasing transactions over 5,000 square feet in 2021, 59 were new businesses setting up for the first time or those relocating from outside London—the highest number ever recorded since tracking began in 2013. Another, more disturbing metric of tech and foreign investment into the city?
An electricity shortage, specifically pressure on the grid in West London, made worse by energy-sucking data centers being built along the M4 corridor in the past few years. According to the Financial Times, “major new applicants to the distribution network … including housing developments, commercial premises and industrial activities will have to wait several years to receive new electricity connections.”
If all those newcomers can’t cook at home, they came to the right place, especially these days, when the culinary industry is being reborn after dozens of the city’s most iconic restaurants shuttered over the pandemic. The city with the fourth-best restaurants on the planet is buzzing again with big-name openings like Dubai-based izakaya-style restaurant Kinoya in Harrods. There are hundreds of other rooms soon joining this increasingly daring culinary destination serving—and welcoming the world once more.
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