Ditch the commute: London's emerging business hubs offer new walk-to-work homes

Home buyers and renters across London are ditching the commute as emerging business hubs on the City's fringes become lively urban villages - offering a mix of new homes, shops and offices.

New business districts outside the West End and City, London’s traditional employment centres, are challenging the traditional idea of living in one place and commuting to work in another. Instead of bleak, empty office districts abandoned at 6pm, new “urban village” communities with a mix of homes, shops and offices are bringing a fresh dynamic to the work-life balance.

Home buyers and renters are following companies moving to prestige offices in areas where old trades and technologies have perished and the new economy is ascendant: London Bridge, Victoria, Vauxhall, Paddington, King’s Cross, Shoreditch and Farringdon. Even East End outposts such as Stratford and Royal Docks are becoming hubs for green technologies.  In all of these locations, council planners are promoting big mixed developments linked to improved public transport, particularly Crossrail.

Local property markets are re-energising, with people buying homes on the office “campus” or within walking distance of it, or a short Tube ride away.


Where businesses relocate, money follows. Corporate and creative-sector firms tend to bring a fresh vitality and prosperity to the streets, triggering the opening of more neighbourhood shops, bars, restaurants, gyms, galleries and hair salons. This in turn encourages developers to build fancy homes for the newly arrived higher-spending geeks, lawyers and office workers.

It is no coincidence that office rents are rising fastest in these “new-era” locations, and that house prices are tipped to “excel” over the next five years. “We’ve seen that bigger businesses are very comfortable going to seemingly fringe yet central locations where there is a dynamic mix,” says Chris Perkin, of property company M&G Real Estate.

WHITE COLLAR FACTORY being built at Old Street — also known as Silicon Roundabout — somehow defines high-flying Shoreditch. At the heart of Tech City, this so-called urban campus will combine offices, retail and residential, a place where up to 3,000 people will live and work.

When complete in 2016, it will be a very different place to the hermetically sealed, air-conditioned offices in nearby City of London. This relaxed, high-performing green building will have windows that open manually and chill-out areas with ping-pong tables.

From £778,000: homes at Principal Tower, Shoreditch, EC2

More than anything else, the building reflects the character of the people who now inhabit this part of the capital, mainly hipsters working for digital and design firms and the companies that service them. Derwent, the developer, is a past master at building space for creatives, including offices for architects, the most demanding of clients.

Some of the pioneer techies have moved to fresh pastures but the area remains in the forefront of the digital economy. It is also a place of stylish entrepreneurialism, home to fashionistas and finance professionals, and new flats are springing up for them.

PRINCIPAL TOWER, alongside Bishopsgate Goods Yard, is the first residential skyscraper designed inside as well as outside by Foster + Partners. It will have 243 flats and a spectacular entrance lobby with a spiral steel staircase and sheer stone walls to frame modern artworks. Prices from  £778,000. Call JLL on 020 3130 5101.

Along City Road, the spine of this once-dowdy district, are several more glamorous skyscrapers. Canaletto has 190 apartments priced from £840,000. Call 020 7608 1825. The Eagle has 276 flats above a retained five-storey Art Deco building. Prices from £895,000. Call 0845 077 9550.
SOUTH BANK is one of London’s hottest commercial zones, especially for media and design companies, and this is feeding into the residential market, from Vauxhall round to Shad Thames. Office rents at the Shard top those in Square Mile towers, while the wider London Bridge area, which includes Borough, Bankside and Bermondsey, is attracting big-budget home buyers from posher parts of town. With several thousand employees, all of whom have to eat, drink and have leisure time, the Shard’s influence is spreading, and there are plans to open up a run-down  complex of Victorian railway arches along St Thomas Street into a new neighbourhood linking with Hays Galleria and trendy Bermondsey Street.

Typically, new homes in the area start at about £400,000 and range from £750 to £1,000 a square foot, though the best riverside apartments can be double this. Two Fifty One in Southwark Bridge Road is a new skyscraper with 335 flats priced from £575,000 for a one-bedroom flat. with completion due in 2017. Call DTZ 020 3468 9251.

From £575,000: flats at Two Fify One, Southwark Bridge Road

THE SIGNAL BUILDING, south of the Shard in Newington Causeway, has two-bedroom flats from £595,000 and penthouses from £1,295,000, while a conversion of an old bookbinders’ warehouse in Glasshill Street has created eight boutique apartments next to historic almshouses. Prices from £850,000. Call 020 7357 0026.

Elephant and Castle is another beneficiary of the SE1 office boom. Realstar, a Canadian investment company, anticipates strong demand for rentals as the area matures, and is developing the UK’s tallest private-rented tower, designed by Richard Rogers.

Google’s planned relocation to King’s Cross Central is a seal of approval for an area undergoing remarkable transformation. Regeneration of blighted railway land has created a new 67-acre district and cultural quarter for 30,000 employees and 6,000 residents.

A technology cluster is likely to evolve in the surrounding area. Already a former engineering yard next to the station has become Regent Quarter, a smart community of homes, design studios and small business premises in cobbled courtyards. At Battlebridge Basin, canalside warehouses have been turned into trendy lofts and workspaces for creatives. Here, too, is King’s Place, a 430-seat concert venue with art galleries and waterside restaurants.

Flats at the Plimsoll Building, one of the new blocks under construction, are priced from £995,000. It will have a glass scenic elevator, a rooftop conservatory, art gallery and communal terraces. A business lounge and dining space will be open for meetings and private events, and there will be a gym. Call Knight Frank on 020 7861 5499.

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