You’ll find it happening in Bloomsbury and Belgravia, Marylebone and Mayfair, South Kensington and the Square Mile, Notting Hill and Knightsbridge — Londoners are moving to be close to their shops.
Not those predictable high street chains but individual shops, where owners are serious about their food and homeware, their crafted goods, their cheeses and delicious treats, home-made breads, butchery and bistros. The attraction of these retailers is so strong that developers have recognised buyers’ desire to live near them, in attractive new homes where they join a “village” community in areas with genuine cachet.
The city’s landed estate owners have been improving their central London acres for a decade with huge success. Streets once filled with dreary charity shops are now sparkling with exciting retail.
Marylebone is a staggering example of how an area can improve. Other landlords followed suit and are continuing to work with local planners to create new “micro zones” that focus on “public realm” improvements that make streets look better and feel more pedestrian-friendly.
Lovely inner-city areas have taken on a new life in Shoreditch and Bermondsey while cheaper areas are encouraged to clear away their inner-city debris for new homes close to the Westfield shopping malls at Shepherd’s Bush and Stratford.
There is a strong and obvious link between luxury shops and luxury property. Surveyors report “concentric circles of value” around a good street or select retail destination, with the inner rings the more expensive. London’s most expensive properties are in the SW7 postcode, which extends from Knightsbridge, by Harrods, to South Kensington. Next in the league table is the Mayfair pocket of W1 (Bond Street) followed by SW3 (King’s Road) and W8 (around Kensington High Street).
Westminster and Victoria trail other parts of SW1 because of the dearth of upmarket shops, though the retail and residential scene is improving there, too, with schemes such as Cardinal Place, opposite Victoria station, where new apartments are being built on neighbouring sites.
Family-owned South Kensington Estates is focusing on the patch between Beauchamp Place and Thurloe Place. When it acquired the land seven years ago, it was a forlorn, unfashionable strip, strangely at odds with the glamorous shopping experience of Harrods, only a stone’s throw away.
Today, it is called Bromptons, an upmarket retail destination, specialising in homeware (including Smallbone, SieMatic, Skandium, Boffi, B&B Italia), fashion and beauty brands. In neighbourhood terms, it has filled the gap between swanky Knightsbridge and the ultra-smart cluster of shops and restaurants around Michelin House on Fulham Road. Rolling refurbishment is bringing new flats, often above shops, to the market. Visit www.bromptonquarter.com.
Further west, in Fulham Road, an entire Victorian terrace with original shopfronts is being redeveloped into 56 apartments and 14 retail units. The original façade is being restored, despite a section of the buildings collapsing earlier this year. Called Chelsea Walk, the homes are due for completion in the spring. Bernadette Cunningham, director of developer Thornsett, says the prominent corner site will be an extension of The Beach, the trendy retail-and-restaurant strip on Fulham Road. Call 020 7843 9500.
Crown Estate is undertaking a £500 million facelift of St James’s and aims to attract 10 top-name retailers to put the district firmly on the shopping map. Currently only 2.5 per cent of Crown Estate’s four million square feet of property in the area is residential. The objective is to boost this figure and push up values beyond £2,500 a square foot — from the current £1,500 to £2,000 price band — to match the best homes in Mayfair and Belgravia.
Bedford Estate, in Bloomsbury, is turning Store Street, moments from the Heal’s and Habitat shops, into a “village high street”, with flats on upper floors. The landowner has taken control of 14 shops on one side of the street and let them to independent retailers. Early next year refurbished flats in Gower Street and Ridgmount Street will be available to rent from £424 to £800 a week. Contact Hurford Salvi Carr on 020 7299 3322.
Fitzrovia, on the western side of Tottenham Court Road, is also getting a facelift. Derwent London, which owns more than 20 buildings clustered around Charlotte Street, has a strategy to create a new zone, with galleries, boutiques, independent shops, and designer homes alongside a refurbished park.
Key to this is redevelopment of a large block occupied by advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi, which is due to vacate the building in 2013. Mayor Boris Johnson has approved a plan for 55 new homes and more than 400,000sq ft of office and retail space. West One, on Newman Street, is a contemporary block of 14 flats, priced £890,000. Call Hamptons International on 020 7758 8434.
Westfield tempts West End crowd and sets Shepherd's Bush on fire
Westfield shopping centre, the mega mall covering nine west London postcodes, is a sprawling, squat complex and not exactly glamorous, but there is evidence that it is drawing in West End shoppers and giving a boost to the Brook Green and Shepherd’s Bush property market.
Westfield has contributed to the upgrading of Shepherd’s Bush Green, helped revive Uxbridge Road with new pavements and shop frontages and built a library. Plans have been lodged to redevelop Shepherd’s Bush Market, which borders two conservation areas, and proposals include 210 flats and an artisans’ quarter with stall and retail units.
Nearby Lime Grove Mews is a gated development being built on a former council depot and includes smart Regency-style four-storey townhouses as well as flats, ready for occupation in 2013. For details, call 020 3002 9460.