Pull into Euston and prepare for a surprise
Traditionally, Euston has been a place to pass through rather than to live. The busy train station has set the tone: transient and noisy, with little sense of neighbourhood.
Office towers loom over car-clogged Euston Road, the congestion charge boundary and one of the capital's most pedestrian-unfriendly thoroughfares, while budget hotels and fast-food outlets serve the travelling hordes.
But there are positives as well as negatives. Few places in Britain are better served by public transport than this pocket of London. Up the road are St Pancras and King's Cross, offering trains to everywhere from Paris to Perth, plus direct links to London's airports.
A short stroll away are the villagey backstreets of Bloomsbury, Fitzrovia and Marylebone, plus the leafy acres of Regent's Park. And, gathering momentum, is an area makeover, bringing new mixed-use developments with humanscale retail and residential hubs.
Redevelopment of listed Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Women's Hospital has greatly improved a formerly scruffy patch moments from the station. Occupying an entire block bounded by Euston Road, Churchway and Grafton Place, the scheme comprises 47 homes, a shiny new headquarters for the public sector union Unison, a gallery and exhibition space.
Despite the disparate elements, the buildings integrate seamlessly. Squire and Partners, the architect, came up with a "village square" concept - an open atrium, surrounded by the public spaces, with glazed cafés and restaurants allowing clear views in and out to the street.
The new residential buildings include a low-rise mews-style group of 17 affordable homes connected to the restored red-brick hospital by an open courtyard, a continuation of the atrium space, with natural stone paving, planters, seating and feature lighting.
These homes are being sold on a shared-ownership basis by Origin, a local housing association whose roots in the area go back to the Twenties, when it was set up to provide accommodation for railway workers. Called Churchway, the two-bedroom apartments are set behind a gated entrance with video entry, have tasteful oak front doors, black powder-coated window frames and high-gloss white kitchens.
One apartment has a huge, high-walled roof terrace (over 300sq ft), ripe for someone with imagination to transform into a striking urban garden retreat. Prices from £435,000 to £485,000. The minimum equity stake is 25 per cent, or £108,750. Only first-time buyers are eligible, and priority is given to people living or working in Camden borough. Call 0800 068 8990. Only one of the open-market private apartments in a separate block is left for sale, priced at £495,000. Call Galliard on 020 7222 2005.
Euston has strong academic and charitable links, with numerous university buildings and medical campuses - a settled backbone that gives the area character amid the scurrying commuters. Origin has launched a new website (originsales.co.uk) making it easier for buyers and renters to identify homes and book viewings online. Coming soon are developments at Kilburn High Road (homes in a former Victorian warehouse), Corsica Street and Loudon Road, Camden.
Somers Town - a triangle of land adjacent to the new St Pancras Eurostar terminal - is worth watching. Now largely council estates, it is regarded as a "lost quarter" and is being targeted for new housing. Housebuilders are also sniffing around the northern tip of Euston where it meets Mornington Crescent, which has been under a veil for decades.
Affordable homes account for 834 of the total 1,946 properties to be built at King's Cross Central, where a new district is taking shape around Europe's largest transport hub: 20 streets, 10 squares, 25 office buildings, 500,000 sq ft of retail premises plus a school, community and leisure facilities.
The first residential buildings - 284 homes for shared ownership and rent, due for completion next year - overlook Regent's Canal and will be adjacent to parks and public spaces that collectively form a series of "home zones".
One Housing Group, which is allocating the homes, says Camden borough residents and key workers have priority, though more homes open to a wider pool of people will follow. To register, visit onehousinggroup.co.uk or call 0800 234 6242.