The Square Mile has some big news for homebuyers who want to live and work in the City but have always been frustrated by the small amount of property available.
The biggest development of new homes since the sprawling Barbican complex was completed in the Seventies launches on 18 March.
In Ropemaker Street, in the heart of the financial district, The Heron (www.theheron.co.uk) is a sleek and slender 36-storey skyscraper, and it will offer 284 apartments, with part of the site being used as the new premises for the Guildhall School Of Music And Drama.
The scheme brings a taste of Manhattan-style glamour and luxury to the City, where, traditionally, most homes have been modest crash pads. Busy bankers will be offered “lifestyle extras” such as bespoke concierge services and valet parking by an Armani-clad porter.
Also, residents will have access to a private club and roof garden. With no on-site affordable housing, The Heron is being marketed unashamedly as an exclusive address. Crowning the tower will be a magnificent 5,500sq ft penthouse, though most flats are “studio suites” and one-bedroom apartments. Prices start at £400,000.
With its black glass and stainless steel architecture, it promises to be a new City landmark alongside the Wren spires and modern “icons” such as the Gherkin. Many apartments will have minimalist-looking, 18ft-long balconies, while high-specification interiors include bathrooms with “cat’s eye pearlised mosaic walls” (these will be on show at a makeshift marketing suite opening next week).
Potential buyers can register now by calling 0844 544 4210, or Alan Selby & Partners on 020 7519 5900, or King Sturge on 020 7993 7399.
Whatever the ups and downs of global financial markets, it seems there are more City workers than ever who want to live within close walking distance of the office. The Square Mile’s long-working-hours culture is not the only reason: the City is a much more convivial place to live than it was a decade ago.
With the demise of the old nine-to-five economy, many shops and restaurants open late into the evening and at weekends. Royal Exchange, with its luxury fashion boutiques and eateries, rivals Old Bond Street.
And a low-profile “ring of steel” police cordon means the City is one of the safest places in the capital.
A RESIDENTIAL SECRET
In the past, City planners were unenthusiastic about residential development, especially in the core banking area, judging this as a brake on office building that could damage the area’s status as a top financial centre. But in recent years, this policy has been relaxed somewhat.
The City Corporation is promoting mixed-use buildings and increasing the supply of homes, especially on the fringe towards Shoreditch and Spitalfields in the east and Fleet Street in the west, where the Corporation’s jurisdiction reaches (see below).
Yet, remarkably, London’s most historic district remains something of a residential secret. Though some 350,000 people work there on a daily basis, the City has only about 8,000 residents — most live in the Barbican and the social housing estates of Golden Lane and Middlesex Street. Other homes are tucked away in quiet corners such as the lanes and passages around Smithfield market.
Tight supply means that City homes normally make sound investments. Values are still quite a bit lower compared with the best locations in the West End or in Kensington & Chelsea borough. Most City homes are small apartments and prices start at about £300,000 for a studio.
Barbican penthouses rise to more than £2 million. Call agents Frank Harris on 020 7600 7000.
Frobisher Crescent is a refurbishment of an original Barbican block previously used as offices. The striking semi-circle block has 69 new apartments and offers the “best of both worlds”, according to developer United House, such as updated interiors and the distinctive Barbican concrete exterior. Prices start at £380,000. Call Hamilton Brooks on 020 7606 8000.
Number One EC1 is being built at Lamb’s Passage, moments from where The Heron will soon start to rise. This will be a portered block of 59 compact and comfort-cooled apartments (sizes range from 323sq ft to 870sq ft).
Prices are from £399,500 to £670,000. Call 020 7250 1012.
CONFIDENCE IS BACK
Demand for a City pied-à-terre is as strong as ever, says Paul Driscoll of estate agent Hurford Salvi Carr.
"It’s all about confidence and convenience. Financial services have bounced back quicker than people predicted. If you are a banker with cash burning a hole in your pocket, it makes sense to buy rather than rent property.”
Looming over Old Street roundabout, one of the main gateways into the City, is a new scheme of 127 apartments called Bezier. Named after the Frenchman who pioneered the use of “smooth curves” in engineering, it is a suitably rounded piece of architecture, with two circular glazed towers. A connected terrace along Leonard Street is being converted into loft spaces. Prices from £335,000. Call Knight Frank on 020 7861 5449.
The chance to buy a refurbished freehold house, rare in the City, is available at New Street, where three listed Georgian properties have been converted back to individual houses after years as offices. Spread over five storeys and ranging up to 2,327sq ft, they have charm — and a certain quirkiness — and would suit family buyers or someone who runs a home-based business. Prices from £1.9 million to £2.1 million. Call 020 7250 1012.
New Street is a pedestrianised lane, moments from Liverpool Street station, that leads into Devonshire Square, an attractive courtyard office and retail complex. This is the eastern edge of the Square Mile, bordering colourful and arty Spitalfields, a convenient diversion from the pin-striped City proper.