Going car free in Hackney
Hackney has been named as the capital's cycle "hub", with one in seven residents using two wheels as their main mode of transport. The borough's cool, bike-friendly culture includes community repair workshops plus cycle groups and "cycle cafés".
Team GB's Olympic cycling superstars have inspired thousands more people to get in the saddle, and last week our cycling-obsessed Mayor Boris Johnson launched a £100 million initiative to turn neighbourhoods into "mini-Hollands", with more green bike routes and bikes-only bridges.
Developers are creating secure cycle storage facilities at housing schemes, which chimes with local authority planners' preferences for "car-free" developments. Hackney's canal towpaths are a gift for cyclists, and waterfront regeneration is improving the network. Regent's Canal, stretching from Little Venice to Limehouse Basin, is the main artery through Hackney.
Lime Wharf is part of the Branch Place conservation area and creative quarter. Warehouses have been cleared to make way for three apartment blocks clad in zinc, with workshops and studios fronting the canal bank. Prices from £495,000. Call Currell on 020 7226 6611.
New homes in area with creativity and design at its heartClerkenwell's annual design festival kicks off on May 21 and developers are using the event to launch new homes. Synonymous with cool urban design, the area has more than 100 architect firms, a cluster of furniture showrooms and homeware stores, numerous ad agencies, and graphic and interactive design companies, making it the biggest enclave of creative-sector businesses anywhere in the world.
In recent years, new homes have been in short supply as development opportunities dried up. But builders are now pushing into Clerkenwell's less-developed northern reaches on the boundary with Angel. This patch of London has its own distinct identity, shaped by City University's campus and the Sadler's Wells Theatre.
Small printworks and factories have survived alongside Georgian terraces, Sixties council estates and charitable housing, such as charming Brewers Buildings on Rawstorne Street. Design creep from central Clerkenwell is under way, with brands such as Porcelanosa and Knoll opening showrooms, while new eateries, independent shops and galleries are beginning to sprout up in side streets.
Clerkenwell Quarter, in Central Street, is the latest development — 107 apartments around a landscaped courtyard, plus underground parking and cycle storage, concierge and communal roof garden. "It's a solid, safe address and a little cheaper than bordering areas," says Nick Davies of estate agent Stirling Ackroyd. Prices start at £420,000. Call 020 7749 3800.
Top shops 'third city' gets building
Croydon has got the bit between its teeth following an agreement to redevelop the drab Sixties Whitgift Centre into a modern £1 billion Westfield shopping mall. The local council is trumpeting Croydon as London's "third city" (after the West End and Square Mile), a key business location on the edge of the capital, with 27 trains an hour into the centre. With the town's commercial heart getting sorted, residential developers are stepping forward, sensing there is a gap in the market for designer flats with so-called "lifestyle extras" — such as a concierge, secure parking, gym, cinema and on-site café.
Saffron Square ticks these boxes. This scheme is under way moments from the Whitgift Centre site and incorporates a 45-storey residential tower plus a range of commercial premises on the ground floor facing a new one-acre public square. Berkeley Homes is building 719 apartments, from studios to penthouses. Prices from £202,500. Call 020 8774 9888 or visit saffronsquare.co.uk
Waterfront project taking a leaf out of Kew's book
Brentford gazes enviously across the Thames to the leafy, inviolate acres of Kew Gardens, and developers building on the Brentford waterfront are always keen to reinforce the Kew connections.
So we have Kew Bridge West — 249 flats spread over seven riverside buildings set around landscaped courtyard gardens. St James, part of Berkeley Group, has taken a design cue from the Royal Botanic Gardens and included an orangery, a grove of trees illuminated by canopy lights, and sculptural planting with water jets. Prices from £330,000. Call 020 8662 6000.
On Brentford High Street, a disused factory is getting a new lease of life as Kew Reach. Bellway is building 47 apartments and extending the river path to the rear. From £230,000. Call 0845 6760259.