Homebuyers take note: Croydon is to become the first suburban "super-hub" as part of Boris Johnson's plan to reshape London during the next decade.
The Mayor has set up his Outer London Commission to revitalise neglected suburbs and make them lightning rods for development. He has picked Croydon because of its strategic location on the edge of the capital. The decision will be confirmed at a "suburbs summit" on 11 June, when three more superhubs covering the compass points of London are likely to be announced.
Croydon is already one of the country's busiest transport and employment centres, attracting more than 30,000 commuters a day and providing 15-minute rail links to Victoria, London Bridge and Gatwick. New tram routes connect Croydon to Wimbledon and Beckenham, and by 2010 the town will be plugged into the Tube network via the extended East London line.
During Millennium fever nine years ago, Croydon council came up with a bold town centre masterplan called 2020 Vision, setting out a £2 billion makeover that included replacing ugly Sixties office blocks, adding Continental style piazzas instead of unfriendly pedestrian subways and creating modern housing for the new generation of white-collar workers and commuters.
Developers stepped up to build sleek skyscrapers. But little happened because key sites were mired in planning controversy. However, there is now a fresh focus on regeneration and a new spirit of collaboration. Berkeley Homes has started work on a 44-storey residential tower, complementing several smaller-scale apartment schemes that are nearing completion. This means that people can buy into Croydon's future now. Up to 15,000 new homes and five million square feet of office, retail and leisure space are envisaged.
Kick-starting this is a £450 million regeneration deal between the council and developer John Laing, which will transform prominent town centre sites. Architect Will Alsop has devised a green masterplan, drawing on ideas from cities such as Barcelona. Wellesley Road, the main thoroughfare, will become a Ramblas-style boulevard. The River Wandle, buried beneath concrete for 40 years, will be uncovered.
Even French President Nicholas Sarkozy is impressed, saying that the Croydon model could be used to gentrify unruly Parisian suburbs.
Colourful, contemporary buildings designed by leading architectural firms such as Foster & Partners and Ken Shuttleworth's Make are on the starting blocks. Eyes are on Ruskin Square, a nine-acre site alongside East Croydon station, itself poised for a £15 million upgrade.
THE EXCHANGE, in a conservation area near the lively Royal Charter Market, has 66 loft-style flats priced from £215,000. Flats have high ceilings, oak floors, underfloor heating, Italian kitchens and smart wiring. Call estate agent DTZ on 020 7408 7509.
ALTITUDE 25 in Fairfield Road has 236 flats with enclosed winter gardens. Due for
completion in June 2009, prices start at £165,000. Call estate agent Townends on 020 8680 8585.
BAUHAUS, in Mason's Avenue, is a scheme of 189 homes, including mews houses. Prices from £155,000. Show homes open for viewing. Call developer Durkan on 020 8667 0607.
IYLO, in St James Road, is a 20-storey glass-clad tower with 183 flats, due for completion in 2011. Prices from £200,000. For more information, call 020 8680 5000.