Bordering fashionable Notting Hill, Portobello Square is a new address for London. It will help reinvent a “lost” neighbourhood with 1,000 new homes on 14 acres.
Having scooped a Royal Institute of British Architects housing design award for PRP, the firm that created it, the new village aims to end the north-south divide in Kensington & Chelsea, the capital’s most expensive borough.
'This area has been winning new fans since Stella McCartney set up her “atelier” in a former chapel on Golborne Road'
The first phase of apartments and modern mews houses with integral garages launches next week, offering the chance to buy early into an area that will benefit from this major jab in its property arm. Prices are about 30 per cent less than homes selling only a 10-minute walk south, in the heart of Notting Hill.
Lying at the northern end of Portobello Road, for more than 40 years the patch has been known as Wornington Green. Providing this opportunity for change is the regeneration of a Seventies council estate. As well as private homes, 20 shops are being built on Portobello Road, and new streets will provide better links to Ladbroke Grove.
© Rex Features
The area has been winning new fans since fashion designer Stella McCartney set up her “atelier” in a former chapel on Golborne Road, heralding the neighbourhood’s “arrival”.
Young professionals have moved into the love-it-or-loathe-it 31-storey Trellick Tower, the listed concrete block that looms over the area, and gentrification is continuing, with shabby stores and greasy spoons giving way to boutiques and bistros.
This was Notting Hill a generation ago. Griff Marshalsay, project director of developer Catalyst, sees the future repeating itself. It is certainly a big multicultural mix, cosmopolitan, lively and lit up late into the night. There’s a distinct inner-city feel as families go about their daily lives at street markets, council offices and health centres.
The daddy of all markets, world-famous Portobello Road, which has been there since 1860s, winds north from now-affluent Notting Hill to gritty Kensal Town. The north-south divide is accentuated by the physical barrier of the Westway elevated motorway, but this is changing as the money filters north. Portobello Green, right under the motorway, is an arcade of quirky start-up fashion shops, a jumping-off point for young designers.
Hard to believe in the 18th century it was forest and farmland. In 1801, the Grand Union Canal arrived, followed by the great Western Railway in 1838, bringing with it the relentless tide of traditional Victorian terrace homes, which later became a warren of bedsits as seemingly terminal dilapidation set in. By the beginning of the 20th century, the area was one of the poorest and most overcrowded in London.
Victorian-era slums were cleared in the Sixties and replaced by council estates housing immigrant arrivals from Spain, Portugal and the Caribbean (and later Morocco), which give the area its character to this day.
A new neighbourhood
Portobello Square occupying a wedge of land just north of Golborne Road, lays claim to a cachet address the Victorians, remarkably, failed to invent. “It will no longer look like an estate but an integrated part of Kensington,” promises a council spokesman.
The focal point is a new garden square, open to Portobello Road, while a grid of new streets will reinstate historic routes to Ladbroke Grove. Architecture is restrained, with low-rise blocks blending into the surrounding Victorian streetscape. Starting prices — from £450,000 for a one-bedroom apartment — show this is not a cheap part of town despite its up-and-coming status. Values equate to about £850 per square foot.
Mews houses with garage, courtyard garden and roof terrace cost from £900,000 and are aimed at young families priced out of Notting Hill. (Hamptons International. Call 020 7758 8478 or visit the marketing suite.) The first phase has 324 homes, due for completion in January next year. The scheme is “tenure blind”, meaning rental and shared-ownership homes will be mixed in with private housing.
Crossing Golborne Road railway bridge is like entering another world, yet still within the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. Grim council blocks scar the tract between the train tracks and the Grand Union Canal, though a proposed Crossrail station is a potential regeneration catalyst.
Trellick Tower, with its distinctive lift shaft joined by walkways to the main building is an unlikely symbol of urban cool, offering affordable, spacious flats with stunning views. Foxtons is selling a three-bedroom apartment for £400,000. Call 020 7616 7000.
Portobello Dock, back towards Ladbroke Grove, is another regeneration landmark, with its canal-side complex of warehouse apartments (one recently used in the BBC’s The Apprentice), loft offices, design shops, crafts premises, bars and restaurants.
Designer Tom Dixon is based there and the cobbled courtyard campus is still the somewhat gritty London Design Festival venue. For designer homes contact Domus Nova (020 7727 1717).
Local resident Jordan Reynolds has known the wider area since the Swinging Sixties, being involved in the film and music industries. He argues the “invasion of bankers has sanitised Notting Hill, which has lost much of its lively Bohemian spirit. The northern edges are much more interesting.”