More people now live alongside the central stretch of the Thames in London than at any time in the capital’s history. If you are one of those residing on the south bank, it will be hard not to notice the changes taking place in Vauxhall.
This beating heart of the capital is pulsating with new activity.
The monster St George Wharf apartment complex fills the horizon between the traffic and the river. The architecturally sleek, 50-storey circular skyscraper called, simply, The Tower, is rising into the sky and stands in splendid isolation — dwarfing the linked blocks of St George Wharf and marking the final phase of this scheme and the beginning of a sophisticated new era, with the new bus/Tube/rail interchange providing your ticket to anywhere.
This location is one for the clever, committed Londoner. It is still scruffy around the edges but it is the gateway to Nine Elms, which will be London’s main riverside regeneration zone over the next 20 years.
Sandwiched between the South Bank and fashionable Battersea waterfront, its 450 precious acres are waiting to be transformed into a glittering new district that will reopen a Thames Path blocked for generations.
The Tower is being launched — off plan — next month. Until then it is being kept a closely guarded secret, although word has slipped out that there will be a spectacular triplex penthouse with 360-degree views and the sort of luxury accessories that attract those who cannot live without a cigar humidor (to register, visit thetower-onestgeorgewharf.co.uk). Apartments at Aquarius House, a low-rise block facing Vauxhall Cross, cost from £399,950. Call 020 7978 4040.
This building activity is changing the traditional north/south divide. The south side used to be seen as the poor relation, but striking new architecture has given it the edge and in some areas values are nudging ahead.
Developments such as the Norman Foster-designed Albion Riverside and the Richard Rogers-inspired Montevetro in Battersea are enticing posh people from Chelsea and Fulham, according to Matthew Smith of Knight Frank Riverside. “People can buy into a secure development with a 24-hour concierge, spa and underground parking, get a long lease and know it is only a short walk across the river to King’s Road or Sloane Street.”
Currently, Lots Road Power Station is the only major development site on the north side of the river west of Canary Wharf, whereas there are a couple of dozen in the pipeline on the south side.
Smith deals with 35 developments between Putney and Westminster and says the Battersea to Wandsworth strip is the most popular. The entire area is alive with homes.
Landscaped promenades with cafés, boutiques and galleries are making the area a more convivial place.
One drawback is the absence of a handy train or Tube station. However, a river taxi service has been extended to Wandsworth, providing a much-needed transport link.
AROUND THE BEND
Riverside Quarter is located at the end of Point Pleasant, a former industrial strip that cuts back to the river from the traffic-clogged town centre.
Overlooking leafy Hurlingham, it sits on a bend of the river known as the Wandle Delta, a noted wildlife habitat. More than 400 flats have been built plus new moorings for pleasure boats, pontoon jetties and a passenger stop for the river taxi operated by Thames Executive Charters. Two-bedroom apartments start at £388,500. Call 020 8877 2000.
Jet-setting businessmen may prefer Bridges Wharf, with 266 flats. The scheme is built on land next to the London Heliport, allowing owners to fly in and out of their apartments.
A new luxury hotel operated by Von Essen Group will open next year. Glass-fronted apartments are priced from £375,000, rising to £2.5 million for a spacious penthouse with possibly one of the finest views on the south side from its curved inner conservatory and open-plan reception, kitchen and “outdoor entertaining area” (or terrace). Call 0845 638 5005.
The cluster of developments either side of the heliport are of varying quality — in design, bulk and their relationship to the river. As yet, the infrastructure — shops and places to eat and drink — lag behind the homes. Apply the “pint of milk” test and many fail — unless you jump in the car you’re out of luck.
A 5,000 sq ft penthouse at Battersea Reach, on York Road, recently sold for £8 million, proving this patch can command top dollar despite the gritty urban neighbourhood lying back from the river. The main reason for this is the scheme’s bold, uncompromising architecture, with a series of dramatic “ship-prow” buildings providing generous-size, dual-aspect balconies that cascade towards the river.
Two and three-bedroom apartments in Spinnaker House, the final phase, are priced from £789,950. A waterfront bar and restaurant, patisserie and gym have opened. Call 020 7978 4141.