Crossrail, launching next year, has triggered a second wave of regeneration in Paddington, boosting its ambition to become a top central London address.
The new east-west Elizabeth line is eagerly awaited because it will allow City professionals to live in west London while enjoying a quick and painless 17-minute commute to their desks Canary Wharf.
The number of passengers using Paddington station is forecast to double over the next two decades, thanks in part to the new line.
Brunel’s original terminus has been given a major facelift with a new Elizabeth line station being knitted into this neighbourhood.
Like other mainline station districts, Paddington started to decline in the mid-20th century. The Victorians had built handsome garden squares and imposing stucco terraces to fill the acres between the station and Hyde Park. But after the Second World War, many of the grand townhouses were converted into cheap bedsits and backpacker hotels.
By the Seventies, Paddington had the fastest population turnover in London, and was a place of “bewildering cosmopolitanism”, according to author Peter Ackroyd.
In its heyday, the district hummed along on the back of the industrial revolution. The junction of Regent’s Canal and Grand Junction Canal is close to Paddington Basin, which was a major gateway for bricks and clay, and other materials needed to build a rapidly developing London. It thrived for years until lorries and petrol engines put the barge horses out to grass.
Eighty-acre Paddington Waterside was a wasteland, a closed-off industrial zone, for decades. It was relaunched as part of the Paddington Regeneration Partnership in 1998. It is now once again humming along, reborn and thriving, this time as a lively urban quarter sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the train station and the roaring Westway flyover.
It’s the biggest building project in Westminster borough, covering an area the size of Soho. While some say it lacks the charm of nearby Little Venice and the vitality of Bayswater, this new neighbourhood has plenty of devotees because it is a lower-priced location but still close to the West End and Hyde Park, and enjoys undeniably superb transport links.
Floating park and summer festivals
Alongside hundreds of new homes and a relaxed California-style office campus with rooftop basketball court is the capital’s first floating park, a 45 metre-long green “oasis” created in a canal basin moments from the upgraded train station. Various events and festivals are planned for the summer months including a Dragon Boat Regatta and a Canalway Cavalcade of barges and other vessels.
Homes are being built on land previously earmarked for a new medical centre for St Mary’s Hospital, which was abandoned after spiralling costs.
At the moment, the new restaurants and bars around the basin are used mainly by local residents and office workers. Marks & Spencer, Vodafone, Visa and Microsoft are among the high- profile companies to have relocated there, joining small businesses that operate from barges moored on the canal, one offering yoga classes and “pamper puff” manicures.
Buoyed by the Elizabeth line’s direct links to Canary Wharf and Heathrow, this new business hub will help underpin property values as the area matures, says Diana Alam of property adviser JLL.
Local estate agents report that prices have slipped by up to 15 per cent since the overzealous market of 2014. As with other central London postcodes, Paddington homes are cheaper than they were before the Brexit vote. Now may prove to be a good time to buy into the area.
Get £1 million off a grand townhouse
Developer Alchemi Group has slashed the price of grand townhouses and apartments at its Leinster Square scheme — down by more than £1 million in some cases. But you still need a deep pocket for the garden square properties. Prices start at £3.95 million. Call 020 7499 3881.
Michelle Collins, 40, director of a West End fashion retailer, recently paid £828,000 for a two-bedroom canalside flat. “It was a resale and looked really good value. My plan is to rent it out for three or four years and then move in when all the construction is over.”
Paddington’s new canalside homes
Merchant Square is a cluster of canalside apartment blocks amid attractive landscaped areas with “sculptural” bridges across the water, one designed by Thomas Heatherwick, leading to a garden square, performance space and innovative “water maze”.
Coming soon is North Wharf, while plans for a 599-home skyscraper, nicknamed The Cucumber and incorporating a deluxe hotel, have planning consent. Call 020 7298 0800.
Renzo Piano’s Glass Cube goes low rise
After an outcry by heritage groups, a proposed 72-storey residential tower dubbed the “Paddington Pole”, which would have required demolition of an Edwardian postal depot in Praed Street, has been ditched in favour of a glass cube office block designed by Shard architect Renzo Piano.
This will create more than an acre of public space, a rooftop restaurant and improve what is still a shabby patch around the train station entrance.
West End Gate is a new 672-home neighbourhood being built on a vacant site that blighted the area for decades, directly opposite Edgware Road Tube. Berkeley Homes, the developer, says the scheme is inspired by the handsome mansion blocks of Maida Vale, though the first phase is a 30-storey tower. Prices from £620,000. Call 020 7720 4000.
Paddington Gardens is another sleek canalside scheme — 271 flats set amid a birch grove and wild flower garden. Prices for the first phase of 91 flats start at £825,000. Call CBRE on 020 7205 2167. Paddington Exchange brings 123 flats in high-rise blocks with communal roof terraces. Prices from £915,000. Call 020 3866 0934.
Parker House is a refurbishment of a grand heritage building, formerly a pub, split into 19 high-ceiling flats priced from £570,000. Call Hamptons International on 020 7758 8482.
Rental renaissance — and room for art
Rental specialist Residential Land says Paddington is surging in popularity as tenants wake up to its improving amenities and transport connections. One-bedroom apartments typically cost £475-£675 a week.
Meanwhile, the arrival of a Heal’s homewares store in Westbourne Grove is another example of Paddington’s renaissance, helping to blur the border with Bayswater. And as commuters leave for work they will be able to enjoy Cloud Index, a spectacular artwork printed on the new Elizabeth line Paddington station’s 120-metre canopy, creating a real-time picture of the sky according to the light and sun.