Mayor Boris Johnson has done his bit to kick-start the capital’s housing market by buying a £2.3 million town house in one of Islington’s most expensive streets - part of a conservation area discreetly tucked away behind Angel Tube station.
- © Johnny Green/PA
The handsome four-storey end-terrace Georgian house backs on to Regent’s Canal and has off-street parking for the Johnson family’s people carrier.
'Islington has seen a return of "sealed-bids" selling as house prices continue to rise'
But if Boris is still keen to cycle to work he won’t want for company: cyclists stream past his front door every weekday morning.
The property marks a step up from the Mayor’s previous London home - a white-stucco Victorian semi off congested Holloway Road - that he sold for £1.1 million. The Mayor managed to buy his new home for £600,000 below the original asking price - an unusually shrewd move for a man who is said to take as much interest in personal property dealings as he does in his famously dishevelled appearance. Perhaps Marina, his barrister wife, closed the successful deal.
Keeping up with the Johnsons
Not only was the deal good but so was the timing. Since purchasing the house in June 2009, the phenomenon of “sealed bidding” has returned for Islington’s most sought-after homes, reports top-end estate agent Hamptons. If the Johnsons were to sell their new home now they would make a decent profit.
However, the presence of London’s top politician in a gentrified, blue-plaque pocket of Islington could be a double-edged sword for his chattering-class neighbours, who include television host Angus Deayton.
While shining the spotlight on the address and beefing up the street’s security - no bad thing for house values - the prospect of hordes of door-stepping reporters and paparazzi may be less welcome, as the Blairs’ move to Bayswater’s Connaught Square has proved.
Whatever happens, the Mayor’s new neighbours are unlikely to be in awe of him. Some complained about a summerhouse. But Toby Watkins, who lives nearby, said: “He has been a conspicuous figure around here for years [his old house was only a few minutes’ bike ride away]. I was playing tennis on the next court to him the other day and he kindly returned our ball on numerous occasions. He’s a good guy but it is no great deal that he has moved here.”
House-hunters keen to live close to a political celeb, perhaps hoping some of the glitz will attach to house prices, could buy a new house just along the street. The Colebrooke Collection is a rare scheme of six modern houses built behind classic Georgian façades. Prices from £2.2 million. Call Chesterton Humberts on 020 7288 0330.
Such houses are easier to find in north London where demand is driven by creatives and media types who want the “loft look” - glass and steel finishes and open-plan interiors. Fresh from pledging 50,000 new homes for London before 2011, and launching a new design guide aimed at avoiding cramped “hobbit homes”, Boris Johnson would be pleased with the new builders coming into his area.
And not only Georgian
A crop of fashionable new developments has sprouted in the Islington heartland around Upper Street. Trendy apartments are being built around City Road Basin, part of a regeneration zone where a Little Venice-type community of small businesses and live/workers has formed.
It is still a somewhat raw location, in the early phase of regeneration, but it is attracting young career professionals working in the City.
“They like the new modern apartment blocks and being able to walk to work, and it’s less chichi than Islington’s Upper Street,” says Nick Davies of estate agent Thomson Currie, which in October will launch The Cube, a scheme of 17 flats on City Road, opposite Moorfields Eye Hospital. Call 020 7288 8178.
The Wenlock Building is a tell-tale sign of this area’s arrival: 55 crisply modern apartments and glamorous penthouses overlooking Regent’s Canal, with a smart hotel-style entrance lobby with concierge. Prices range from £325,000 to £1.5 million. Call 020 7288 0330.
Angel Waterside, another contemporary-design scheme, scooped a prize in the Government’s 2009 Housing Design Awards. Light and airy canalside apartments are available to rent from £500 to £1,750 a week. Resales cost from £350,000. Call 020 7253 6512.
Cheaper flats are for sale on Essex Road, towards the border with Hackney. At Northpoint, 425sq ft studios cost from £180,000, while two-bedroom apartments at Morton Grand, a converted Victorian school, are priced from £450,000. One-bedroom flats in a new-build section cost £265,000. Call 020 7354 5224.
Regent’s Canal cuts through Angel to King’s Cross, Islington’s biggest development site. Regeneration of blighted railway land is under way, and boutique-flat schemes are appearing in formerly scruffy backstreets off busy Pentonville and Caledonian Roads.
This patch borders Barnsbury, a very pretty Georgian and Victorian enclave of garden squares, cottages and ivy-clad pubs - almost a secret. Though affluent (the preferred address of rich City bankers), there are several in-fill developments around the edges where cheaper homes are on offer. Wallpaper Apartments on Offord Road has 24 flats and live-work homes. Prices from £565,000.
For decades, nearby Arundel Square had a “missing” fourth side - a vacant plot of land where a bus station once stood alongside handsome Victorian town houses. Now, following an ambitious engineering project, a scheme of 115 flats is nearing completion.
Tube trains run below the central garden area, the main reason why planners had previously vetoed any development proposal. Joint developers United House and Londonewcastle succeeded by building a new tunnel with a structural deck above. This has allowed the open green space of the square to be extended and a new five-storey block to be built.
Flats range from studios to three-bedroom penthouses. Show flats designed by Target Living will be ready for viewing in September 2009, when the prices will be released. To register, visit www.arundelsquare.com or call 020 7409 8756.
New flats are available to rent at Islington Green, a new hub that is part of Upper Street’s café society, on the site of the old Collins Music Hall. The redevelopment features bold glass-and-steel architecture with two five-storey towers and a striking atrium overlooked by apartments and crowned by a circular penthouse. The new 600-seat underground theatre has yet to open. Rents start from £320 a week. Call Savills on 020 7226 1313.