Towers Rise Over London’s Brick Lane, Clouding Its Future

“This area had been abandoned,” said Dan Cruickshank, a historian and member of the Spitalfields Trust, a local heritage and conservation group.

When he bought his home in Spitalfields in the 1970s — a property that had stood empty for more than 10 years — Mr. Cruickshank said he struggled to secure a mortgage. East London, he said, was “deemed dark, dangerous, remote and to be avoided” by mortgage lenders and property developers.

Now, in what Mr. Cruickshank derides as a “peculiar case of gentrification,” homes in Brick Lane have acquired a Midas touch. Average property prices in the neighborhood have tripled in little over a decade, according to real estate agents’ collations of government data, with some soaring over millions of dollars.

With the average home in London costing nearly 12 times the average salary in Britain, affordable housing options are scarce.

For centuries, Brick Lane has been a sanctuary for minority communities: Huguenot silk weavers who fled religious persecution in 17th-century France, Ashkenazi Jews escaping antisemitism and pogroms in Eastern Europe, and then Bangladeshi Muslims in the 1970s, during Bangladesh’s fight for independence from Pakistan and the ensuing violence. Since the 1990s, it has become a symbol of multicultural London, celebrated in novels, memoirs, movies and museum exhibits.

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