For more than a decade Clerkenwell benefited from a migration of media and design companies from Soho and Covent Garden. Now firms are heading further east and to south and west London, boosting Bermondsey, Hackney, Camberwell, Deptford, Wandsworth, Hammersmith, Acton and north Kensington.
Creative businesses tend to operate on lower margins than big law and accountancy firms so they actively seek out and “make” the next hot place.
In a sense, secondary commercial areas don’t exist anymore, suggests David Rosen of Pilcher Hershman, a consultancy that specialises in finding space for creative companies.
“London is now full of creative areas. Usually, they are the first to discover gritty urban areas. They like the authenticity and the interesting buildings, and the lower rents.”
SE8 is one of London’s burgeoning creative and small business hubs, with enviably quick train connections — five minutes — to London Bridge.
Railway viaducts slice through the area, and adjacent land and factories are being bought for housing and work studios.
Deptford Foundry, which has 316 homes and 70 studio spaces for artists, makes a virtue of its gritty inner-city setting by using robust, industrial-style architecture, while creating a new central street and opening up the three-acre site by punching through listed arches. Prices from £345,000 to £690,000. Call 020 7526 9229.
Another hotspot, Shepherd’s Bush is feeding off change at White City, where £8 billion of investment is bringing thousands of new homes and jobs with the former BBC Television Centre at the heart of things.
As well as apartments in the iconic Beeb building itself, the scheme includes an Imperial College campus of academic excellence, a new media village, an expanded Westfield shopping mall with the largest-ever John Lewis department store, green public space and upgraded transport links.
Tucked away close to this new commercial complex is Townhouse Mews, a scheme of contemporary-design houses on the site of a former recording studio. The homes range up to 2,800sq ft and have double-height, open-plan spaces, glass walls, a roof terrace and inner courtyard that acts as a light well. Prices from £1.65 million. Call Kerr & Co on 020 3723 2836.
Southwark used to be an overspill area for City and West End businesses, but has become a first-choice office address, popular with architects and boutique financial services firms, according to Stirling Ackroyd.
The area stretches back from the Thames towards Elephant & Castle and has a charming urban mix of smart new-build flats, pretty Victorian terraces, charitable and church housing, well cared-for council estates, factory and warehouse lofts and live-work homes.
The Music Box, in Union Street, is a funky scheme of 55 flats above London Centre of Contemporary Music. The 14-storey tower has a glazed brick base and a geometric form of slender vertical blades reminiscent of piano keys. It rises elegantly on a compact site and provides splendid views of the Shard. Prices from £737,500. Call 020 3857 3792.
Stations are not just for trains
Rival centres of commercial activity are also emerging around mainline train stations. At King’s Cross, Paddington, Euston, London Bridge, Liverpool Street and Victoria, planners are promoting big mixed-use developments combining homes, offices and shops with “integrated” public transport, making it easier for people to get to and from work. Crossrail is boosting this phenomenon.
At Farringdon, more than 300,000sq ft of office space is being built and when the Elizabeth line opens in 2018 the number of commuters passing through the station is predicted to increase sevenfold, as it will be the only London terminus with integrated north-south (of the river) and east-west routes.
The changes are lifting the veil on the ancient parish of St Luke’s, just to the north. An 18th-century Hawksmoor church, now a recording studio for London Symphony Orchestra, and a splendid Art Deco public baths help to set the tone of an area that still feels like a secret.
City University, with a campus radiating out from Georgian Northampton Square, is one of the enduring institutions, while a small business village has emerged in Central Street, where a courtyard complex of buildings includes an agency for opera singers, charity Catch 22, a Montessori nursery school, architects and the Contemporary Art Society.
The scheme revives the spirit of the area’s 19th-century industrial heyday when it was filled with small craftworking businesses — printers, bookbinders, watchmakers and jewellers — alongside big brewing, gaslight and coke companies.
East Central, a crisp-design scheme of 35 flats slotted between playing fields and the upgraded St Luke’s Community Centre, has arrived on this patch. Prices from £750,000. Call Stirling Ackroyd on 020 7749 3810.
Closer to Angel, a 930-home scheme has replaced a low-rise industrial estate and data centre. Called 250 City Road, it includes two towers, a rooftop gym and sky terrace, two acres of landscaped space with mature trees, ponds and wildflower beds, offices and studios for start-up companies, shops, cafés and restaurants, plus a four-star hotel. Prices from £850,000. Call 020 7749 3810.