All dressed up and ready to go
King’s Cross is the Eliza Doolittle of London. Once the area was down at heel, full of pimps and prostitutes, but now it’s gone all glamorous. There’s an edgy cultural mix, a very smart continental railway terminal with smart shops, plus restaurants and apartments taking the place of derelict railway buildings and land.
And the property faint-hearted have been converted. They like what they see, says Alec Pappasava of estate agent Frank Harris (020 7387 0077). “King’s Cross was an area to avoid but now people actually ask for it. There are a lot of positive changes. It looks so bright and airy now, there is definitely a sense of place about it — it is now somewhere to invest in and enjoy.”
A GLITTERING DESTINATION
At the top of the list of positives is the transformation of St Pancras station into a glittering destination for Eurostar trains from Paris and Brussels. Now complete, the focus has shifted to the railway lands behind King’s Cross station, where the King’s Cross Central Partnership is developing a 67-acre site with 2,000 homes, a hotel, shops, offices and restaurants, as well as two new parks in one of London’s most densely built-up areas.
North of the Regents’ Canal, a new campus for Central St Martins College of Art is taking shape in a former granary building, and this September, 6,000 students will move in to the premises. King’s Cross Central Partnership says: “This will be a key milestone in the development.”
THE BIG MIX
Properties: Houses are rare in King’s Cross, although King’s Cross Partnership is planning houses as well as flats in a bid to attract more families. Properties are a mixture of low-rise ex-local authority blocks, mansion blocks, warehouse conversions and loft apartments. There are new-build apartments by the Regent’s Canal, with a scattering of flat-fronted period conversions around Caledonian Road.
The area attracts: City workers who can walk to work; the arty and creative who like living in a constantly changing area; students studying at the universities and medical schools in nearby Bloomsbury whose parents are paying; ripples from more pricy Blooms-bury, Clerkenwell and Islington.
Staying power: King’s Cross has a loyal core of local residents and its own news website, www.kingscrossenvironment.com, run by volunteers. But many people move further out when they have families in search of schools, space and a less frantic pace of life.
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Best postcodes: There is no single dominant postcode in King’s Cross, which is carved up between WC1 (Bloomsbury) south of Euston Road; N1 (Islington) east of York Way; and NW1 (Camden) west of St Pancras Road, which includes the council estates of Somers Town. Price differences are less important to locals than defining what constitutes King’s Cross, or being part of Islington, Camden, Finsbury or Bloomsbury.
Best streets: The best parts of King’s Cross are in the redeveloped Regent Quarter between York Road and Caledonian Road, with smart flats overlooking preserved cobbled yards of shops, offices and restaurants, and in neighbouring York Central, where a former British Legion poppy warehouse is now loft apartments. Ice Wharf, a 1990s development on the Regent’s Canal, is also sought-after.
Up-and-coming areas: Much of King’s Cross is still social housing and not for sale but you can find some ex-local authority flat bargains. Check out streets close to the Grand Union Canal such as Rodney Road and Calcot Street.
New developments/regeneration: The magnificent red-brick St Pancras Chambers, threatened with demolition in the 1960s, then left to rot, is being restored and a 244-bed hotel is set to open there next year. The top two floors have been converted into flats. On the opposite side of St Pancras Road, the Grade II listed Great Northern Hotel, behind King’s Cross station, is being refurbished as a 90-bedroom luxury boutique hotel.
Schools: “Schools aren’t an issue in King’s Cross because this isn’t much of a family area,” says David Salvi of Hurford Salvi Carr (020 7250 1012). The only secondary school in King’s Cross itself is South Camden Community School in Somers Town, which languishes at the bottom of the borough of Camden’s league table.
SHOPS GO UPMARKET
Shops, bars and restaurants: the Regent Quarter and St Pancras station have brought new upmarket shops and restaurants to the area, with long established shops such as Housman’s radical bookshop thriving next to them. The south side of Euston Road is much seedier, though, full of fast-food joints and money-changers.
Green space/culture: Green space is in short supply but the Regent’s Canal is a quiet haven in the middle of redevelopment. The Camley Street nature reserve, run by the London Wildlife Trust, is a two-acre slice of green in the shadow of the preserved gasholders by the canal. King’s Cross has never been short of alternative arts and clubbing venues, but now the King’s Place complex in York Way is attracting more mainstream theatregoers and music- lovers to the area.
Although not everyone likes the building. Local resident and founder of kingscrossenvironment.com William Perrin says: “A big influx of office workers and late-night theatre to the King’s Place complex is turning out well for the area, even if the building is oversized and ugly.” Another controversial building, the British Library, has free exhibitions and lots of space to sit and chill.
Transport: It’s one of the best connected places in London, and the only one with European connections. Tubes: Piccadilly, Northern, Victoria, Circle, Hammersmith and City lines, plus trains to almost everywhere in the country north of King’s Cross.
Council: Camden council (no overall control), Band D council tax £1,332. Islington (no overall control), Band D council tax £1,272.
Photographs by Barry Phillips
All details correct at time of publication (3 March 2010).