Lying just outside the City of London's ancient walls, arty Shoreditch seems a very different place to the pin-striped Square Mile.
With its "creative cluster" of design and internet companies, Shoreditch is famous for its factory lofts and cool club scene - whereas the corporate enclave on its doorstep quietly concerns itself with making money.
'There can be quite big price differences between Shoreditch addresses within a two-minute walk of each other'
But does the launch of a classy skyscraper with 257 apartments and an Armani-clad concierge, right on the boundary line of these two districts, symbolise a coming together?
Called Avant-garde, the new 25-storey tower sits between Brick Lane and the Broadgate office complex, a chalk-and cheese location likely to attract walk-to-work bankers and East End fashionistas alike.
Due for completion in 2013, the building will give a big style message, from its swanky hotel-style lobby to its residents-only roof terrace, tranquil courtyard gardens, exclusive lounge for private parties and glass-encased gym. Telford Homes, the developer, releases the first phase of apartments in mid-May, at sensible starting prices of £250,000, rising to £1.7 million for duplex penthouses. Call Hurford Salvi Carr on 020 7250 1012.
Close proximity to an affluent banking community has helped seed regeneration in Shoreditch and led to an influx of cash. It is a more polished place than it was a decade ago during the dotcom boom, when the first wave of creatives arrived.
"By any standards the area was tatty, with backstreet workshops and importers working from shipping containers. But it's scrubbing up well and is now a much better place to live," says Carl Schmid of estate agent Fyfe McDade.
All the landmarks of affluence are appearing - boutiques, galleries and restaurants including Conran's Boundary, and Shoreditch House, an outpost of the trendy Soho members club, occupying the top floor of a former tea warehouse, with loft offices for advertising agencies and architects.
'I know we all talk about hot spots but this is really hot'
It is in travel Zone one and by central London standards Shoreditch is a relatively affordable location, with values averaging about £700 a square foot.
"There can be quite big price differences between addresses within a two-minute walk of each other," says local estate agent David Salvi. During the first wave of local regeneration in the mid Nineties, loft shells were often transformed by owners into quirky, individual spaces.
The heartland around Hoxton Square and the so-called Shoreditch Triangle now command the biggest prices. The best lofts with much-prized outside space cost from £800,000 and rise to about £2million. A new trendy pocket has emerged around once-edgy Redchurch Street, boosted by the recently extended East London line.
"I know we all talk about hot spots but this is really hot - it's a very energetic place where people want to live and work," says Salvi. "There's huge demand for retail space from fresh young brands who then expand into Covent Garden and Soho."
Box Park, at Bishopsgate Goods Yard, is described as the world's first "pop-up mall" - a line of 60 recycled shipping containers transformed into retail units, forming a new "independent" street market.
Eventually, the site will be redeveloped into 2,000 new homes, shops and offices but that is at least five years down the line. Like revitalised Spitalfields Market, with its swish corporate offices and retail parade, the site is likely to become a place where suit-wearing City workers co-exist with bohemian designers.
This is the "new Shoreditch" - prosperous, yet cool, creative and commercial. Londonewcastle, which builds flats in arty inner-city areas and promotes British design talent, has submitted a planning application for a "twisting tower" with 116 flats above street-level galleries, workshops and boutiques on a site between Redchurch Street and Bethnal Green Road.
Looming over Old Street roundabout, one of the main gateways into the City, a new development called Bezier has smartened up another scruffy patch. 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 providing 200 flats.
A protected terrace along Leonard Street is being converted into loft spaces. Prices from £350,000. Show apartments are open for viewing. Call 020 7490 1603.
Right next door is TechHubs, offering cheap-rent business premises for small internet start-ups. With capacity to accommodate 140 people, the aim is to boost the area's status as London's "Silicon Alley" enterprise zone.
Coming soon to this quarter is Central Square - a new scheme of 170 apartments priced from £395,000. The launch is in September 2011 - to register, visit centralsquarelondon.com.
Buyers are prepared to pay a premium - up to £1,000 a sq ft - for a stylish warehouse or factory conversion with secure parking and outside space, according to estate agent Carl Schmid, owner of a popular local watering hole called Common.
Charlotte Road, Tabernacle Street and Shepherdess Walk (which has The Factory and The Canal Building) are among the best addresses. A niche new development on Baldwin Street has flats priced from £325,000. Call Fyfe McDade on 020 7613 4044.
Shoreditch and beyond
From Shoreditch, the development ripple is spreading along Kingsland Road to Haggerston and Dalston, following the East London line extension route. At Kingsland Basin, a £65 million project is bringing 207 new homes, a health centre, café, shops and offices.
London & Quadrant housing association, the developer, is also restoring two listed stable buildings to be studios and workshops for small businesses. Eco-zones will be planted to attract birds and other wildlife. Visit lqgroup.org.uk, or call 0844 406 9997.