For decades, early-bird bargain-hunters have been up with the lark on a Friday morning, scouring Bermondsey Antiques Market for good-value items. Soon they will be able to add property to their shopping list.
Redevelopment of this historic site is in full swing. It is a refreshingly diverse scheme and the first of its kind in London - 76 designer apartments, art-house cinema, boutique hotel and members' club, loft offices, bars and restaurants, all set around a public square that will become a new space for the continuing antiques market and other weekly markets, from organic food to fashion.
Called Bermondsey Square, it will be a new creative hub in a fast-changing area already the location of choice for a growing community of artists, designers, architects and live/workers. Regeneration is rippling out from nearby Borough into Bermondsey, bringing trendy new homes at attractive prices. But values are rising for the best addresses, such as Bermondsey Street, which cuts back from the river underneath the Victorian railway viaduct of London Bridge station.
Also bringing affluence to the area is a gleaming new office complex alongside City Hall, on the banks of the Thames. It is a mini Canary Wharf called More London, with three million square feet of commercial space for 20,000 employees. Accountant Ernst & Young and international law firm Norton Rose have relocated there and a Hilton hotel has opened.
Bermondsey Square is part of a wider regeneration zone and what planners call a "strategic site". Sitting at the junction of Tower Bridge Road and Long Lane, it is a legacy of the Blitz and until now has been an undeveloped plot, the subject of keen archaeological interest because of medieval Bermondsey Abbey, which once stood there.
The aim is to build on the area's creative roots, especially the trendy "scene" in nearby Bermondsey Street.
It is worth investigating on foot. A mix of handsome Georgian, Victorian and 20th century buildings line the street. Behind these are deceptively big courtyards, where light industrial premises have existed for decades. These are now being redeveloped into apartments.
In recent times, boutiques, galleries and bars and restaurants have opened; there are also now five estate agencies vying for business. "The area has not achieved its full potential yet," says Andrew Palmer of property consultant DTZ Residential. Values typically range between £500 and £600 a square foot, reasonable for Zone 1.
Flats at Bermondsey Square are likely to set a new price level. The
nine-story building has a modern timber-and-perforated-steel façade. Studios and flats (up to three bedrooms) will be released in June, with completion due in spring 2008. Prices are expected to start at £250,000. Call DTZ Residential on 020 7710 8111.
Elsewhere in Bermondsey, regeneration is getting rid of eyesores. Watch for 50-acre Bermondsey Spa, a £500 million project. Tenements are being bulldozed and 2,000 new homes built alongside shops, GP surgeries, an upgraded park and offices. Call developer Artesian on 020 7231 1200.
Close by you can also find loft apartments in splendid warehouse conversions, such as the Jam Factory and the Art Deco Alaska building, a former fur factory. Call estate agent Stirling Ackroyd on 020 7940 3888.