A spectacular half-mile long, 40-foot wide floating promenade along the north bank of the Thames between Blackfriars and London Bridge, with eight event and entertainment pavilions, is the latest breathtaking Thames-side scheme being built to delight Londoners. The £60 million project, due for completion in time for the Olympics, has been described by Mayor Boris Johnson as one of "sheer beauty and design brilliance".
Other new piers and pontoons are being created at a startling speed. London's berth rate is rising, the result of a long-running love affair with the river that is spawning new boat moorings and offering buyers waterside amenities at fancy new housing schemes, dubbed "destination developments", along the Thames and the capital's canals.
A series of pre-2012 Olympics initiatives aim to make the riverfront a more enjoyable place to live, work and play - and to exploit the Thames's potential as a transport artery. Opening later this year is a new river taxi pier at Vauxhall, another link in the chain from Putney. New pleasure moorings at Imperial Wharf on the Fulham waterfront recently became available, while a new dock is being built at neighbouring Chelsea Creek.
Berths are more sought-after than parking spaces
"For many Londoners, boating is a long-distance hobby; we want to make it more convenient and more convivial," says Mark Griffiths, managing director of developer St George, part of the Berkeley Group, which has a string of riverside housing schemes at key positions on the Thames, such as Kingston and Kew.
Imperial Wharf moorings have 24-hour access to the river and there are no tidal restrictions. The official opening date of the marina is June 20, 2011. Long-term moorings cost £600 a metre per year, so mooring a six-metre motorboat would cost £3,600 a year.
"Already, quite a few residents have said they're considering buying a small boat to keep on the river," says Seymour Banks, the pier master.
Elsewhere, run-down boatyards are being upgraded and linked into new housing developments - as at Greenwich Millennium Village and Brentford Lock.
Riverside Quarter, with more than 400 flats, sits on a bend of the river known as Wandle Delta, a noted wildlife habitat between Wandsworth and Putney bridges. Once an oil storage depot and no-go zone, it has two mooring jetties, restaurants and a pier (Thames Executive Charters runs a daily river taxi service via Chelsea Embankment to Blackfriars). This waterside hub will be complemented by Osiers, an adjacent Barratt development of 275 homes - eight blocks including a 21-storey tower due for completion in June next year. Prices from £295,000. Call 020 8326 7171.
Riverbank regeneration has created a new property niche, prompting estate agents such as Knight Frank and Hamptons International to set up specialist waterside divisions. Glamorous architecture has brought fabulous penthouses with spacious terraces, while new plazas and piazzas with cafés, boutiques and galleries plus boat moorings have helped animate what would otherwise be sterile housing estates.
"It's the most resilient sector of the housing market - values are holding firm and in some cases we are achieving all-time highs," says James Hyman, partner at Cluttons.
A price gap is opening between older schemes and fancy new ones but location still drives price. Benbow House, a 10-year old scheme next to Tate Modern at Bankside, has a waiting list of buyers. About £800,000 is the entry price for a two-bedroom apartment. This stretch of the South Bank is to get a £4 million upgrade as part of the Mayor's Great Outdoors programme.
New schemes continue to be launched, with some apartments available to buy "off- plan", up to two years before completion. The Boatyard is Kingston upon Thames's first new waterfront scheme for a decade. Prices from £260,000. To register, visit theboatyard.co.uk or call 020 8150 5152.
Coming soon to Hammersmith Embankment is a 750-home estate, with promenade, bars and restaurants, a boat club and pontoon. Called Fulham Reach, the site faces listed Harrods Furniture Depository, the former storage warehouse converted into luxury apartments. To register, visitfulhamreach.co.uk.
At Chelsea Creek, two new purpose-built canals cutting in from the Thames will provide a waterside view for a thousand new apartments. First-phase flats are priced from £559,000 to £5 million. Call 020 7610 9693.
The chance to buy a one-off new property with a private mooring on the Thames, a rare commodity, has arisen in Teddington where an enterprising local developer has gained planning consent for a 5,400 sq ft contemporary-design detached house with a giant garden-level terrace leading to a jetty.
The asking price for the third-of-an-acre plot is £2.65 million. Estate agent Featherstone Leigh estimates a build cost of £1.2 million. Call 020 8977 8118.
The Square, also in Teddington, has 52 new apartments and is built alongside Lensbury, an exclusive Thames-side private members spa and sports club (five months' waiting list) offering kayaking, windsurfing and sailing. Apartments, including duplexes with roof terraces, cost from £210,000 to £1.15 million. Call estate agent Featherstone Leigh on 020 8977 8118.
Creating a private, gated residential "island" in London seems an impossible goal but has been achieved with the redevelopment of a former flour mill in Uxbridge. Called King's Island, this new estate is bordered on two sides by the Grand Union Canal and the River Colne, and comprises 151 homes, including conversion apartments. Prices from £180,995 to £700,000. Call Weston Homes on 01279 873300.
At Alperton, between Ealing and Wembley, a 60-home scheme called Rise has brought a regeneration bonus in the form of new moorings, commercial space, fresh landscaping with sculptures by artist Keith Wilson and a footbridge providing quick access to Hangar Lane Tube station. Prices from £180,000. Call Mount Anvil on 0845 1770 009.
Redevelopment of a canal-side toy factory in Homerton, east London, close to the Olympics Aquatics Centre, has made way for 209 new apartments, 49 permanent purpose-built artists studios and commercial space. Completion is due in February 2012. Prices from £210,000. To register, visit telfordhomes.plc.uk.