Buyers should keep a close eye on Marylebone as rules controlling conservation areas are relaxed and Harley Street doctors move out of their Georgian mansions, leaving them to be returned to gracious residential blocks.
© Barry Phillips
Developers are taking advantage of these changes, creating new homes in what, not so long ago, was a rather shabby area of faded Georgian splendour. They are aiming to attract a generation of mature buyers eager to be close to the bustling West End, who will forgo a country house in the Cotswolds for a home with 24-hour concierge, underground parking and belt-and-braces security. And such is growing demand for elegance combined with community, the transformation is pushing west, past Baker Street and east of Great Portland Street, blurring Marylebone’s border with Fitzrovia.
Already arguably the UK’s best example of neighbourhood revival, Marylebone has become such a fashionable place to live that developers are prepared to pay premium prices for sites that for generations have been in commercial or institutional use.
Estate landlords such as Howard de Walden, which owns 92 prime acres, want to attract more families to sustain the area’s villagey mix of schools, shops and restaurants. Marylebone has a shortage of the freehold period town houses that draw buyers to Notting Hill and Chelsea, but new contemporary homes are sprouting up in tucked-away streets, while large lateral apartments offer an alternative to the area’s traditional mansion flats.
Residential properties are becoming available in the Harley Street medical zone as clinics and surgeries relocate to state-of-the-art spaces such as the newly extended London Clinic in Devonshire Place.
A listed Art Deco building in Hallam Street, vacated by the Royal Society of Paediatricians, has been split into imposing four-bedroom, double-height lateral apartments (up to 3,844sq ft). Prices are from £6.4million. Call estate agent Druce on 020 7935 6535. This is the "premium" end of the market but much cheaper properties are for sale.
About £450,000 is the entry price. Short-lease flats (around 20 years) cost from £189,500.
Manhattan Loft Corporation and Ridgeford are building Fitzrovia Apartments - 70 private flats, part of a redevelopment of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital on Bolsover Street. Zinc and limestone cladding has been used, while penthouses have vast roof terraces. Prices from £700,000. Call 020 7631 1888.
The Portman/George Apartments are under construction just off Baker Street, an improving thoroughfare, with a "homeware hub" of designer furniture shops including Hulsta Rolf Benz and Misuraemme.
The 22 new-build homes back on to a sleek new office complex and have their own communal garden and underground parking. Prices from £925,000. Call Savills on 020 7409 8756.
Simon Hedley, managing director of Druce, says this patch is currently the least expensive part of Marylebone (starting at £900 a sq ft, whereas almost double this figure can be paid in the Georgian "heartland" either side of the high street).
His claim that the area in general is a little "undervalued" rings true. "It’s significantly cheaper than Mayfair, has charm and individuality - and you can’t be more central."
Small-scale projects include conversion of the Duke of York pub on New Cavendish Street where homes are being created on the upper floors. Call Howard de Walden (020 7299 0700).
A pair of listed Georgian houses on Ogle Street have been given a modern makeover. Spread over five levels and with bespoke walnut kitchens by Smallbone, each costs £2.75million. Call Thomson Currie on 020 7354 5224.
Derwent, which owns a cluster of 20 buildings in Fitzrovia, has a masterplan for a new shopping, office and residential quarter, to be kick-started by redevelopment of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi’s Charlotte Street headquarters. This project will include 55 apartments and a new public space, or "pocket park", inspired by Paley Park in Manhattan’s Midtown business district.
Hidden green spaces are one of the area’s delights. Crabtree Place has four apartments and seven townhouses in a gated courtyard overlooking Crabtree Fields, off Whitfield Street. Remarkably, the homes have been squeezed on to the site of a former electricity sub station. Interiors are ultra-modern, verging on minimalist. Three-storey houses have a polished-concrete spiral staircase with leather treads and glass and steel balustrading. A duplex penthouse of 1,676sq ft has a top-floor "entertaining" space with glass walls and wraparound roof terrace.
These cool pads are likely to go to local people, says Ben Babbington of estate agent Jackson-Stops & Staff. Prices from £895,000 to £3million. Call 020 7664 6644.
Marylebone: High Street
For most of the 20th century Marylebone was a genteel backwater populated by actors and retired physicians. Its high street retained the character of a shabby county town rather than an urban thoroughfare moments from Marble Arch.
Decline set in during the Eighties and by 1995 the high street was in crisis. Half the shops were empty or let to charities, residential values were falling and office occupiers were leaving.
However, the owners of the estate, the Howard de Walden family, woke up to the potential of their prized Georgian architecture and landed acres. With some astute thinking, the management went into overdrive to smarten up the area’s act and attract some individuality to the high street, with imaginative private shopkeepers favoured over a predictable mix of chain stores.
The revival started in 1996 when a rat-infested stable block was turned into a Conran store. Then came Waitrose, followed by specialist food retailers, restaurants, fashion and beauty traders alongside the likes of Daunt, an "old-style" bookshop with a beautiful galleried interior.
Part of Howard de Walden’s strategy is to keep control by buying high street head leases - it now owns 70 per cent compared to 20 per cent 15 years ago.