Caught between the more fashionable districts of Maida Vale, West Hampstead and Queen's Park, Kilburn has struggled to identify itself as a worthwhile residential address, despite a few overzealous estate agents talking up the area as "Notting Hill borders".
Most people judge Kilburn by its traffic-clogged High Road and bustling shopping parade. But this is the main artery, not the heart of Kilburn. The area is divided between three boroughs — Westminster, Camden and Brent — which may explain its somewhat fragmented character. But Kilburn has several things in its favour.
First, it is close in — straight up Edgware Road from Marble Arch and nearer to the centre than, say, Hammersmith or Hackney. Transport links are excellent — it has Bakerloo and Jubilee Tubes, overground rail services and Paddington is nearby, giving an express train to Heathrow.
And Kilburn property prices are quite a bit lower than other inner north-west London postcodes. The area has a decent range of homes — from flats (mostly converted) to artisans cottages, Victorian terraces and Edwardian villas. It even has a couple of prized conservation areas.
Railway lines criss-cross Kilburn, which over the years has created pockets of urban blight and held back improvement. Comprehensive regeneration of South Kilburn council estate involves bulldozing Sixties concrete towers blocks and bringing 2,400 new homes, for rent, shared ownership and outright sale.
Four housing associations — Catalyst, Genesis, Network and L&Q — are working with Brent council, and the cranes against the skyline are evidence of the progress being made after several false starts: 156 homes already completed, 336 coming out of the ground, 208 with planning permission and 378 more in the planning pipeline.
L&Q has launched Watling Place, close to Queen's Park station. Prices from £299,950. Call 0844 406 9294 or visitkilburnwells.com. Coming soon is Bourne Place, while another scheme of 93 apartments in a series of five-storey "modern mansion blocks" designed by architect CZWG will be released next year.
"South Kilburn is definitely a place to watch if you are looking for a well-connected home in the capital," says Jackie Sadek, chief executive of UK Regeneration, an agency set up by the Government. "It is brilliantly located and has a diverse community."
Private developers are targeting the area, sensing strong demand from first-time buyers who want an affordable Zone 2 address. City View is a Bellway scheme of 50 apartments on trendy Chamberlayne Road, where Kilburn meets Kensal Green. Prices from £275,000. Call 020 7289 6666.
Chamberlayne Road was once described by fashion magazine Vogue as the "hippest street in Europe", due mainly to the migration of Notting Hill Trustafarians (an urban species assumed to live on family trust money) searching for better-value property. One-bedroom resales typically cost about £200,000.
West Hampstead, which despite the glamorous name tag has more the feel of east Kilburn, has been singled out as a location of "hidden value" in an investment report by estate agent Savills.
The area grew fast once the railways made it commutable from 1860 onwards. Victorian builders blanketed the fields with terraces, the next generation added large blocks of mansion flats, while the 20th century demolished what it could and put up council homes. A process of renewal is happening again.
The Mill Apartments occupy a wedge-shaped, elevated site bordering a nature reserve on Mill Lane, close to Finchley Road, making for a tranquil setting amid the West Hampstead hubbub. Prices start at £383,000. Call Taylor Wimpey on 0845 676 2377.
West Hampstead offers a transport hub with Jubilee line, Thameslink and London orbital trains and direct links to London Stansted.