Finsbury Park: dazzling new arts hub and sky-high homes

Finsbury Park is on the fast track to becoming a fashionable cultural hub with smart flats, shops and galleries thanks to an innovative arts-led regeneration plan.
Every now and again a scheme comes along that completely changes the dynamics of a location within central London. A local family-run firm that has grown into the UK’s biggest fine arts specialist and framers has become the catalyst for change at Finsbury Park.

This unassuming urban strip in north London is about to get a dazzling new building commission by the Jones family. The John Jones Art Building, which launches next month, is part of a multimillion-pound broader council-backed arts-led project in a cosmopolitan part of London that has missed out on regeneration for decades.

This new cultural hub, wrapped around the railway station, is set to signal the transition from a faded neighbourhood to a fashionable one. As well as an exhibition and gallery space, the building will host talks, seminars and workshops, and support emerging artists. Its raw industrial, stripped-back interior with a jazzy café would not be out of place in Clerkenwell.
John Jones’s daughter Kate, 32, is project development manager. She says: “We believe cultural regeneration will enrich the area. Our hope is that we will be able to offer employment and apprenticeships, and foster local talent.” 

Flats for University of the Arts students attending its nearby King’s Cross campus are being built on the site, formerly a low-rise industrial estate. This will add to the creative vibe. Park Theatre opened last year and is part of the regeneration programme.

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From £300,000: homes at City North's two 21-storey towers will range from studio flats to penthouses, and feature shops and a gym
Some smart homes are planned for the area and will launch within weeks on neighbouring industrial land. City North, with 308 apartments, is all part of this, the largest regeneration scheme in Islington borough since Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium project. It will bring a tree-lined piazza at the base of two 21-storey towers. plus shops, restaurants, bars, an art house cinema and a gym.

Another local family, the Morrises, who own the Business Design Centre Group in Islington, are among the joint venture partners. Launching in June, prices range from £300,000 for a  studio to £1.5 million for a penthouse with roof terrace. Completion is due in 2016. Call 020 7087 5536.

For the moment at least, Finsbury Park remains one of the cheaper well-connected north London districts. In Zone 2, it is a major transport interchange with two Tube lines, national rail and a bus station.

City beat and open space
Why has it failed to take off like other close-in areas? Partly because it is the victim of geography. Being placed where three boroughs - Islington, Hackney and Haringey - meet, there has been little co-ordinated planning.

Close to Highbury’s handsome terraces, Finsbury Park has its own varied stock of period houses crying out for young families to colonise, while the new-build apartments sprouting up are enticing singles and couples who want to live in a place where they can feel the beat of the city and also make use of the area’s splendid refurbished Victorian park. At 110 acres, Finsbury Park itself is bigger than St James’s Park and Green Park combined, with a boating lake, tea pavilion and athletics stadium. The park is also the starting point of a traffic-free pedestrian and cycle route extending to Highgate Woods. 

Upgrading of the scruffy patch around the station includes an art project focusing on two Victorian railway bridges, with the aim of exposing the original structures and opening up railway arches to provide a direct link to the park.
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Rock mecca:
the old Rainbow Theatre, where The Kinks and Pink Floyd performed, is now a Pentecostal church
Art points the way
Hoxton and Bankside have shown how “art” can put a place on the map and propel it to being a property hotspot. The process may have already started in Finsbury Park, where greasy spoon cafés are being replaced by organic food shops and French-style patisseries. Kate Jones says the Arts Building project was conceived as a community facility as much as an international arts centre. One alliance is with a youth arts centre at former Hornsey Road Baths.

The John Jones company produces 1,000 frames a month, all handmade by skilled craftspeople to a museum quality, and its long client list includes Madonna, David Hockney and Tom Ford.

In the Sixties and Seventies, music fans flocked to the old Rainbow Theatre rock venue, now a Pentecostal church, to see bands such as The Kinks, Pink Floyd and the Sex Pistols, whose frontman Johnny Rotten was born and bred in Finsbury Park.

“That was the area’s main attraction,” says Chris Currell of Islington estate agent Currells. “After years of under-investment, it’s reinventing itself and for the first time we’re seeing demand for office space from creative-sector companies.”

Research by City North developer United House shows that Finsbury Park has a similar demographic profile to Clapham but, unlike the popular south-west London district, local residents have tended to go elsewhere for leisure and recreation because there has not been much on the doorstep — one  reason why the mixed-use City North scheme is likely to be a hit.

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Studios from £250,000: waterside terrace at Woodberry Park, a new neighbourhood with the glamour to attract young City professionals.
Woodberry Park: 5,500 new homes
Meanwhile, young City workers priced out of Angel and Shoreditch are discovering Woodberry Park, another reinvented neighbourhood on Finsbury Park’s border with Stoke Newington.

Complete redevelopment of a Fifties council estate overlooking two giant reservoirs and the New River is bringing 5,500 new homes — a mixture of private and affordable properties, including glamorous high-rise flats with spectacular views.

It is an awesome, unexpected, setting, 64 acres in total. A sailing club uses one of the reservoirs for water sports, while the other is a nature reserve with a “trim trail” for joggers. A listed pumping station, a climbing centre and café are other attractions. The ambitious homes project will take up to 20 years to complete. Apartment blocks are linked by a series of “linear parks”, while there is a new school and coming later is a retail hub, with an open street market.

“We’re creating a stylish new address that ups the game for the area, with 24-hour concierge, spa, gym and underground parking plus a unique waterfront setting with amenities,” says Piers Clanford, managing director of developer Berkeley Homes. Prices from £250,000 for studios. The next phase is due later this year. Call 020 8985 9918.

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