King’s Cross is central London’s biggest transformation project in a decade. Once the haunt of prostitutes and down-and-outs, today it provides a masterclass in regeneration alongside the lovingly restored St Pancras station and hotel at its heart, with its champagne bar, gleaming shopping arcade and new bars and restaurants.
Sir George Gilbert Scott’s magnificent station hotel has been restored, with gold leaf and drama, by Harry Handelsman, head of the Manhattan Loft Corporation, at a cost of £200 million — and now contains the award-winning five-star St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and 67 of the capital’s most glamorous lofts, the majority of which sold off-plan at prices unimaginable in King’s Cross 10 years ago.
Praise for regeneration
The Regent Quarter to the east of King’s Cross station is a much-praised, sensitive, mixed-use regeneration scheme by developer P&O. It has retained the existing street pattern, restored terrace houses and created new courtyards.
Now the emphasis of the area’s metamorphosis has shifted to the 67 acres of the old King’s Cross railway lands behind the station. This is the site of London’s biggest regeneration project, King’s Cross Central, a joint venture between property company Argent, High Speed 1 builders, London & Continental Railways, and parcel delivery firm DHL.
A promising start has been made. King’s Boulevard is a new tree-lined pedestrian street with a tempting collection of street food vans. It runs from King’s Cross station to the restored Victorian granary building, now home to Central St Martins art school, a college where the students parade around in their latest, wildest fashion creations, giving the area a youthful, playful air. In front of the building there is a new public square with a fountain, a shady sitting-out area, and a new wide flight of steps to the canal towpath, where students chat and eat their lunch in the summer.
On York Way, residents have already moved into Rubicon House, a new tower block of affordable homes, with another block, Saxon House, due to be completed early next year.
Also in this cluster of high buildings, Australian student housing group, Urbanest, is completing two blocks of student accommodation. Also on York Way, but closer to King’s Cross station, the first new open market flats are being sold off-plan at the ArtHouse.
Also planned for the near future is a new shopping street in the restored Victorian coal drops close to the Granary building. When King’s Cross Central is complete in eight to 10 years’ time there will be a total of 23 new and refurbished office buildings, 2,000 new homes, 10 new parks and squares and 20 new streets. The website is well worth a look (kingscross.co.uk).
With all this activity, it is easy to forget that King’s Cross has an established and long-standing population and there are attractive conservation areas including the Lloyd Baker estate, and former council flats designed by leading modernist architect Berthold Lubetkin in Bevin Court (flats here have sold recently for between £250,000 and £460,000). Flats on the Priory Green estate sell for between £275,000 and £300,000, and there are lofts in former industrial buildings between York Road and the Caledonian Road.
The area attracts: King’s Cross is not a conventional area, says Clair Aina of estate agents Fyfe McDade. “People who buy here tend to work in the art, design and media worlds, though we are beginning to see researchers who will be working at the Francis Crick Institute for biomedical research when it opens in Midland Road in 2015.” Interstingly, most people who buy in the area tend to stay.
Renting: renters are usually young singles and couples, and wealthy overseas students.
Postcodes: King’s Cross Central has been honoured with its own postcode, N1C. Elsewhere, King’s Cross falls into the large N1 Islington postcode, and the WC1 postcode which stretches as far as New Oxford Street.
Best roads: houses in Lloyd Square sell for around £2.5 million; Keystone Crescent off the Caledonian Road is a pretty crescent of flat-fronted houses — the last one sold for £750,000. Other desirable streets are Great Percy Street, Prideaux Place and Wren Street.
What’s new: there are shared-ownership flats for sale off-plan for occupation early next year at Saxon House on York Way, the block next door to Rubicon Court. They are being marketed under the Rubicon Court name and prices start at £82,500 for a 25 per cent share of a one-bedroom flat valued at £330,000. Contact the One Housing Group on 0750 6214098.
Argent is developing the ArtHouse (Knight Frank 020 7861 5499) on York Way, with 114 flats (29 affordable through the One Housing Group). Only six penthouses remain, with prices starting at £1.55 million. The development will be ready for occupation in autumn next year.
The Trematon Building (Savills 020 7016 3895) on Railway Street is the last phase of P&O’s Regent Quarter development. There are 34 one- and two-bedroom flats and a penthouse, but all of the one-bedroom flats are now sold. The two-bedroom flats start at £745,000 and the development will be ready for occupation in spring next year.
Up and coming: Clair Aina says the interesting independent shops which have sprung up on Amwell Street on the Lloyd Baker estate make this a particularly attractive area to live, while still being little known.
Schools: all the primary schools in the King’s Cross and St Pancras area have a higher-than-average intake of pupils still learning English, and so struggle to get above-average results at Key Stage 2 at age 11. Nonetheless, most primary schools are judged “good” by the government education watchdog, Ofsted. St Mary and St Pancras CofE in Werrington Street is the only primary school judged “outstanding”.
There are three comprehensives — Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (girls ages 11 to 16) in Donegal Street, the school that was visited by US First Lady Michelle Obama in 2009, is judged “outstanding”. Maria Fidelis RC (girls ages 11 to 18) in Phoenix Road is “good”, and Regent High (the former South Camden Community School) (co-ed ages 11 to 18) is judged “satisfactory”. The Gower School (ages three months to 11) is a private Montessori school with a nursery in North Road and a primary school in Cynthia Street.
Shops and restaurants: there is still a lot of inner-city grunge along Euston Road, but there are shops and restaurants on the concourse at St Pancras station. The best restaurant is Marcus Wareing’s Gilbert Scott in the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. Two other notable new restaurants have opened recently in King’s Cross Central — Caravan in the Granary Building and Shrimpy’s in The Filling Station, an inventive temporary building on Wharfdale Road.
* MORE ON THE BOROUGH OF CAMDEN:
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Open space: there are walks along the canal, and Regent’s Park isn’t far.
Leisure and the arts: Kings Place has two concert halls which specialise in classical music and jazz; Gagosian has a large art gallery in Britannia Street, and the Renoir cinema shows art films in the nearby Brunswick Centre.
Travel: there is no better-connected place in Britain, with trains to Europe, the Midlands, the north of England and Scotland, Kent, across London itself and from Bedford to Brighton. King’s Cross St Pancras Underground station is on more lines (Piccadilly, Northern, Victoria, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City and Circle) than any other and it’s all in Zone 1, with an annual travelcard costing £1,168.
Council: King’s Cross is divided between Camden (band D council tax for 2012/13 is £1,328.25) and Islington (band D council tax for the 2012/2013 year is £1,268.59).
Buying in King's Cross
One-bedroom flat: £356,000
Two-bedroom flat: £626,000
Three-bedroom house: £1.3 million
Four-bedroom house: £1.46 million
Renting in King's Cross
One-bedroom flat: £350 to £450 a week
Two-bedroom flat: £450 to £600 a week
Two-bedroom house: £550 to £700 a week
Three-bedroom house: £700 to £900 a week
Four-bedroom house: £900 to £1,200 a week
Five-bedroom-plus house: £1,200-plus a week
Source: Fyfe McDade
Fun facts for King's Cross: highest value streets