A new homes boom prepares Whitechapel for its future as a Crossrail hub

Whitechapel, the cheapest spot on a Monopoly board, is enjoying a building boom as Crossrail promises to turn it into a major transport hub linked to Heathrow.
East London has been on a gold run since its Olympic-bid success in 2005. More Londoners now live east of Blackfriars Bridge than in the west of the city, and the migration is continuing to change the demographic. Transport upgrades have opened up areas previously unknown to many home buyers, while a building boom is bringing ever-better new housing.

Carl Schmid of estate agent Fyfe Mcdade says it has become a place of “stylish entrepreneurialism” that is attracting buyers from Fulham, Putney and even Chelsea.

“Unusually for London, the business world and the arts happily co-exist. Cycling along the canal in the morning you’re guaranteed to pass one person going to UBS in the City and another heading off to their workshop.”

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Poignant street art: the Cable Street mural depicting anti-fascist demos there in 1936
Whitechapel holds a special place in the history of London as a staging post for successive waves of newcomers. The latest group to arrive are the young professionals, most seeking affordable homes in a part of town where “the property market” is still a fairly new phrase. When Docklands was born in the Eighties, businessmen leapfrogged from the Square Mile to the glittering towers of Canary Wharf, leaving this patch of the old East End to its own devices. Parts of Whitechapel remain run-down but the district is also vibrant, cosmopolitan and arty. Now a fairy godmother has descended in the form of Crossrail, which will open a new station there in 2018.
Barts’ five-acre Whitechapel Estate next to the Royal London Hospital is the latest chunk of land to be snapped up for new homes and shops, while this week’s launch of Commercial Street penthouses with seven-figure price tags also shows Whitechapel is losing its “gritty” image... though it remains the cheapest Monopoly board district.
 
Grit is good
Corporate affluence is coming to the area with glass-and-steel office schemes such as Principal Place, dubbed the “Un-Square Mile”, which includes a residential skyscraper designed by leading architects Foster + Partners. And with London’s digital economy continuing to move eastwards as Crossrail becomes a reality, Whitechapel is a logical extension to the Shoreditch tech cluster. Wickham’s, an Edwardian former department store in Mile End Road, has been converted into a hub for technology, media and telecoms start-ups. Urban Villa, a boutique hotel chain, is another Whitechapel arrival.

“The area is quite rough around the edges, but that’s not a negative for a lot of young buyers and renters coming here who believe other parts of London are too chichi,” says Nick Davies of estate agent Stirling Ackroyd.

With average property values of £600 per square foot, Whitechapel is the lowest-priced City fringe location and on a shortlist of London areas to invest in compiled by property adviser CBRE. The average price paid is £626,362, according to Zoopla property website.
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One Commercial Street’s four penthouses at the top of a 21-storey tower cost from £3.3 million, which is close to £1,500 a square foot, twice the price of the earlier phase of flats in the same block. Penthouse buyers get a luxury 2,250sq ft interior and spectacular views. Call Redrow on 020 3302 3115.

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From £1,935,000: for penthouses at Altitude, Barratt London's 171-apartment development
Barratt’s 27-storey Altitude tower at 35 Whitechapel High Street has 171 apartments above a grand entrance foyer with concierge. Penthouses start at £1,935,000. Call 0844 811 4334.

Aldgate Place, another big mixed-use scheme, is bringing 500 flats plus shops, restaurants and cafés around new public space.

A hotspot to watch
Cheaper homes will be offered by housing association L&Q, which has acquired a 3.5-acre self-storage site for development. When Crossrail trains are up and running, it will be as quick and convenient to get to Canary Wharf as it is to the City from Whitechapel, a mere five-minute hop. This seems sure to create property ripples as bankers and junior office workers alike wake up to Whitechapel’s connectivity.

The patch between Cable Street and Commercial Road is a place to watch.At the moment, rag trade premises outnumber swish loft apartments, but change is afoot. Cable Street, famous as the scene of anti-fascist demonstrations in 1936, takes its name from the manufacture of ships’ cables and ropes. That industry is long dead, but running beneath the street today is a fibre-optic superhighway from the Square Mile to the trading rooms of global investment banks on the Isle of Dogs. For many decades it was neglected as a place to live and work. A few small businesses survived the docks’ demise and some run-down warehouses were turned into artists’ studios. Now, suddenly, developers have discovered it.

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From £3.3 million: One Commercial Street's four penthouses offer luxury interiors and spectacular views. Call 020 3302 3115

To entice buyers put off by surrounding council estates, developers have to offer value for money. Brickmakers Apartments, a recently completed scheme by Telford Homes, has flats from £420,000. Call Base Property on 020 7033 1901.

Handsome brick warehouses such as Wool House in Back Church Lane, a delightful, unexpected pocket, have been turned into loft apartments with exposed brickwork and timber beams, for rent from £460 per week. Call Loft Lets on 020 7278 9888.

Royal Mint Gardens, on a busy junction close to St Katharine Docks, is a step up in design terms — glass-clad apartment blocks with big terraces plus 24-hour concierge, gym, yoga room, whirlpool spa, residents’ lounge and private cinema. Prices from £638,000. Call Knight Frank on 020 7718 5202.

Commercial Road is a main thoroughfare leading into the City, so it is always busy. At the western end, a Bengali Muslim community dominates with clothes shops and restaurants. Flats above shops are being brought back into use, while fashionable designer furniture store Ligne Roset is a sign of the area’s changing demography.

Whitechapel Gallery, which is credited with helping to launch the careers of several renowned British artists, from David Hockney to Gilbert & George, is one of the area’s institutions. It points to the hugely energetic local art scene but says there is “an incredibly fragile ecosystem of small business owners, artists and creatives”, especially around Brick Lane, which, it is claimed, is endangered by speculative property developers and wealthier home buyers.

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