Bespoke apartments in gleaming new skyscrapers will soon surround the City of London. These sentinels of success will draw young professionals to Aldgate, Whitechapel, Shoreditch, Spitalfields, Farringdon, Fleet Street, Borough and Bermondsey.
Twenty years ago these areas were low-rise, second-tier commercial zones, unloved by home buyers. While remarkable change has taken place, the latest launches represent a move away from individualistic loft living in converted factories and warehouses to corporate flats in purpose-built skyscrapers, fully serviced and with amenities on tap.
Principal Tower, rising on the boundary between Shoreditch and the City, is the first residential skyscraper totally designed by renowned architect Foster + Partners, and offers bespoke interiors plus a sleek exterior.
A stone’s throw from the Broadgate office complex, the 50-storey tower has 243 flats and a big emphasis on high-quality communal space, including a spectacular entrance lobby featuring Foster’s trademark sculptural design, a showpiece spiral steel staircase and sheer stone walls to frame modern artworks.
Armani-clad concierge staff will be on call 24 hours a day, and residents will have use of a private cinema, a club and lounge for business meetings or entertaining, a lap pool and fitness centre, and underground parking, while a landscaped piazza will provide a half-acre green sanctuary amid the City swirl. Prices from £600,000. Call JLL on 020 7087 5660.
Such “executive” housing reflects the shifting character of the City fringe. Many of the pioneer techies and creatives have moved out, and though the area remains in the forefront of the new digital economy and is an engine of stylish entrepreneurialism, increasingly it is a place for fashionistas and finance professionals.
Close promixity to a prosperous banking community has helped cement regeneration, says Mike Bickerton of property consultant DTZ, which is soon to launch four penthouses at One Commercial Street, a 21-storey tower built above Aldgate East station. Prices from £3,375,000. Call DTZ on 020 3296 2222.
“Fringe districts have matured fast and are already quite sophisticated. City workers who previously headed west to live in Fulham, Putney and Chelsea are moving there. They have bigger budgets, which is pushing up the quality of apartment schemes to a new level,” says Bickerton.
Prices from £4.6 million: apartments at Neo Bankside on the South Bank, five buildings ranging from six to 24 storeys
Zone 1 action
Southwark is a hotspot, with development rippling out from Bankside, Borough and Bermondsey towards Walworth, the cheapest Zone 1 address. Skyscrapers south of the river offer splendid views, big colour-changing skies and shimmering reflections off the water, along with the northern light favoured by artists. Two Fifty One Southwark Bridge Road, another distinctive tower, has 335 flats.
Caught in a loop of the Thames, this chunk of the SE1 postcode is so central that it falls into the congestion-charge zone. Arguably, no other part of London is as well-connected to all of the capital’s main hubs, whether business and financial, creative and cultural or shopping and leisure. Within a 15-minute walk are four major rail terminals and nine Tube stations, and it’s 10 minutes to Bond Street and Canary Wharf by the Jubilee line.
From Elephant & Castle, SE1 fans out to connect with eight central London bridges — one reason transport strategists chose the area for a cycle superhighway that will stretch to the new digital community at King’s Cross and open up a new commercial corridor along the way. In this “discount district”, new homes start at about £375,000 and range from £650 to £900 per square foot, which estate agents say is good value for a buzzing riverside neighbourhood close to all the action. Two Fifty One tower launches next month, for completion in 2017. Prices from £390,000. Call 020 3468 9251.
From £895,000: 276 flats at The Eagle near Old Street
City Road, the spine of a once-dowdy district between the Square Mile and Angel, is getting a £1 billion facelift with several head-turning skyscrapers, including 36-storey Silicon Tower, part of a cluster of buildings called Lexicon. Prices from £705,000. Call Mount Anvil on 020 7205 4118.
The rash of residential development follows the opening up of a hidden canal basin. The waterfront is framed by Canaletto, a 31-storey glass-and-aluminium tower with 190 flats and three storeys of amenity space, with a spa, private cinema, residents’ club and sky garden. The flowing, curved design by Dutch architects UNStudio has been praised for its “visual beauty” by architecture critic Dan Cruickshank. Prices from £840,000. Call 020 7608 1825. The Eagle, also on City Road, has 276 flats above a retained five-storey Art Deco building. Prices from £895,000. Call 0845 077 9550.
Such skyscrapers appeal to middle-to-high-income urbanites who relish the modernity and glamour of tower living and the convenience of hotel-type services. Many of the flats are being bought as first homes rather than weekday crashpads, because the areas are proper neighbourhoods, with shops, bars and restaurants.
Estate agent Knight Frank uses the term “unstoppable momentum” for City-fringe living and predicts prices on the Square Mile’s eastern border will jump by up to a third, to £1,500 a square foot, by 2016 on the back of the fast-expanding “tech city” cluster of companies based around Old Street.