The Olympics missile base with sun deck, pool and bar
- 2 May 2012
- From the section London
It has underground parking, 24-hour security, a gym, swimming pool, residents-only bar, water features and a sun deck overlooking the Olympic Park.
And soon it could be home to a Ministry of Defence surface-to-air missile post.
"I wish the media would stop calling it a block of flats," a suited man says to another as he stands in the sun beside a koi carp-filled pond, surrounded by a growing melee of Army personnel and reporters.
"We don't pay extortionate service charges and mortgages for it to be called a block of flats. It's a gated community," insurance worker Richard Piatt replies when asked what people should be calling it.
'Village in east London'
Welcome to the Bow Quarter - a residential complex in Bow, east London, set to become the new line of defence against terrorist attacks during the Olympics.
Far from fitting the image many may hold of an east London "block of flats", the Grade II-listed former matchstick factory is a place where residents swap books in the bar, dine in an in-house restaurant and buy bread baked at Spitalfields from their own supermarket moments from their door.
"It's a fantastic, beautiful, hidden place to live. It's like a village in the middle of east London. There's a real sense of community. I don't know of anywhere like this," effuses a 28-year-old woman who bought a flat 18 months ago.
The community's role in the security of the Olympics was on everyone's lips as businessmen and women returned home from work to find their gardens occupied by Her Majesty's Royal Engineers in scenes reminiscent of sitcom Dad's Army.
They had set up a platform on top of the now famous uninhabited water tower in the Lexington block. Meanwhile Lt Col Brian Fahy of the London District remained on sentry duty patiently answering civilians' questions.
The tower is one of six locations in London identified for "air security" weapons to protect the city during the Olympics.
The Ministry of Defence says that a six-month consultation has taken place with local authorities, though residents say they were given no prior warning.
"It's such a nice place to live that it's a minor inconvenience for six or eight weeks whatever it's going to be," said the resident who has called Bow Quarter home for the past 18 months.
'Kind of disgusting'
While Mark Vichion, who has lived there for 14 years, said: "We should have a bit of pride in making the place secure rather than moaning about it."
A one-bedroom flat in the Army's new outpost sells for about £250,000 and costs about £1,500 a month to rent. The service charge is about £1,800 a year.
"It's their own bar, more or less," says Sal Ahmed, manager of Madisons Bar. "In the same way the gym is theirs, the bar is part of the package."
Francis Ray White, a gender studies lecturer at the University of Westminster, thinks the gentrification of the place is "dubious".
She has lived in three different flats in the complex, which also has water features and a reconditioned red telephone box, and was drawn to it by its history as the site for the matchgirls' strike of 1888 against Bryant and May's working conditions. She now overlooks the Lexington water tower.
"The gentrification element is dubious because the women who worked here were treated very badly and now we have our 24-hour porters and swimming pool and it's kind of disgusting," she says.
"But it's better that it's used," she concedes.