To live in the thick of things in London, you have to aim for the “property bull’s-eye”. New-build homes in the city’s most central locations are available, despite shrinking development activity elsewhere in the capital.
The congestion-charge zone broadly defines the property bull’s-eye. Not all developments in it are for the super-rich.
Lower-priced flats in Marylebone, Soho, Covent Garden and Bloomsbury are on offer, and homes are also coming to cheaper “front-line” areas of the West End, such as Park House on Oxford Street, where 39 flats are being built above a new shopping mall.
One niche developer has set his sights on Beaufort Gardens - a still remarkable, ungentrified Victorian square in Knightsbridge - convinced it is an undervalued central pocket. Also being targeted are Victoria and Euston, traditionally seen as business areas but now getting a neighbourhood boost through clever regeneration.
'A 20-storey tower at Euston underpass shows how a new 'inner circle' address can strike a chord with homebuyers'
One Osnaburgh Street, a 20-storey tower looming over Euston underpass, shows how a newly created “inner circle” address can strike a chord with homebuyers. The scheme of 62 flats is part of an office and retail scheme called Regent’s Place. It is being built by UK property giant British Land, which launched the apartments last July in an almost moribund market.
Since then, contracts have exchanged on more than 30 flats and reservations are continuing. Estate agent King Sturge says the scheme has the “right ingredients for its time” - affordability (about £900 a sq ft, much less than Kensington or Chelsea); quality design (by architects Terry Farrell and Johnson Naylor); and the British Land brand (not a here today, gone tomorrow developer).
Prices start at £335,000 and rise to more than £2.5 million for duplex penthouses, all on 999-year leases. For more information, call 020 7993 7397. At least 100 more homes are planned in a later phase called North East Quarter.
Land Securities, another huge commercial property company, is building 20 Gillingham Street, tucked away behind Victoria station. There are 37 flats in a portered block with landscaped gardens and underground parking. Two-bedroom apartments start at £885,000. Call Hamptons International on 020 7758 8477.
Nearby, a former NCP car park in Rochester Row is making way for a scheme of 38 apartments, launching in early 2009. One-bedroom flats will cost from about £500,000. Call Barratt on 020 7631 3675.
Bull’s-eye properties are the focus of a new “opportunity fund” launched by asset manager London Central Portfolio. This company pools investors’ money to cherry-pick properties, which are then refurbished, let and eventually should be sold at a profit.
'Financial turmoil has given rise to exceptional buying opportunities'
“Financial turmoil has given rise to exceptional buying opportunities,” says managing director Naomi Heaton. Prime properties will continue to beat the mainstream market over the medium to long term, she adds.
Whereas in the past, LCP shunned new-build flats because they carried a price premium, developer discounts have now made buying new tempting. The new “vulture” fund requires a minimum investment of £50,000. Call 020 7723 1733.
Elegant modern architecture
Chelsea Apartments is being built on the corner of Hortensia Road and Fulham Road, about 200 yards from Chelsea FC’s stadium. This is not the best address in Chelsea but the development brings elegant modern architecture, which is in short supply in the borough.
Designed by Royal Opera House architects Dixon Jones, the building has 25 apartments and is set back from the street on what was a school playground adjacent to listed Kensington and Chelsea College.
The curved façade has large rectangular windows, reminiscent of artists’ studios, and tiered, wraparound terraces. At the top is a single penthouse spreading across the breadth of the building. Prices start at £910,000 and completion is due in summer 2010. Call Savills on 020 7409 8756.
Over in the Kensington heartland, a pair of dilapidated listed town houses has been restored and split into six splendid lateral apartments by heritage developer Chester Row.
Occupying a corner site on Queen’s Gate Place and overlooking a garden square, they are impressive homes that recapture the grandeur and scale of the original dwellings. Sizes range from 2,745 to 3,348 sq ft and cost from £5.25 million. Call estate agent Kaye & Carey on 020 7590 0066.
Beaufort Gardens is tucked away between Harrods and Beauchamp Place, just off Brompton Road. The street is a cul-de-sac and comprises two terraces of imposing Victorian town houses divided by a thin, tree-lined strip. Yet despite the location, the street is a rough diamond in the Knightsbridge crown.
Many of the houses have shabby façades and have been split into mediocre apartments. Developer Nicholas Trimmatis calls it “Knightsbridge’s forgotten corner”. He has snapped up several buildings to transform into apartments and is lobbying hard for streetscape improvements.
The first refurbishment has yielded five luxury flats but they are oddly lacking in genuine glamour and grandeur. Prices range from £3.5 million to £12.9 million. For information, call 020 7887 6097. “I would have preferred a more traditional, English style but Knightsbridge is an international market,” explains Trimmatis.