Skyscraper Highway: new waterside homes with a view at London's "Tech City"

Set to be among the year's biggest new homes schemes, walk-to-work flats are launching just north of the Barbican near City Road canal basin.
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Walk along Ironmonger Row, just north of Barbican, to the canal basin at City Road and you will discover the ancient parish of St Luke’s. It has an 18th-century Hawksmoor church —  now a recording studio for London Symphony Orchestra — and magnificent Art Deco public baths.

The district was a lively commercial quarter until about 1990 but with  startling suddenness it fell almost silent as new technologies wiped out the trades and crafts that had flourished there over two centuries. Soon, all that was left was a sad streetscape of industrial buildings that nobody used.

City University, with a growing campus radiating from Georgian Northampton Square, is one of the area’s enduring institutions and helps set the tone of a district that still feels like a secret. In recent years, a revival has been under way, fuelled by the rise of neighbouring Shoreditch, with mainly small-scale developments of loft-style offices and flats.



City Road is now set for its first major scheme — 930 homes and a new commercial complex connected to a “skyscraper highway”, previously a separate entity, on its eastern flank.

Called 250 City Road, it is likely to be one of the biggest new homes launches this year. Berkeley Homes, the developer, has a good track record in “place-making” projects and this new neighbourhood is expected to make a splash. Designed by architect Foster + Partners, it includes two towers, a rooftop gym and sky terrace, two acres of landscaped space with mature trees, ponds and wildflower beds, offices and studios for start-up companies, shops, cafés and restaurants plus a four-star hotel.
From £595,000: 263 flats in the first phase of 250 City Road. Call 020 3411 7996

The land sits off one end of a canal basin in an area on the northern fringe of the City zoned for tall buildings.  It replaces a low-rise business estate and data centre, built barely 25 years ago when Islington borough planners’ aspirations for the area were rather less ambitious.

Taking advantage of the Zone 1 location, each of the buildings is set at an angle to maximise views of London landmarks, from the Wembley Arch to the Gherkin. Glass-clad blocks will have light-filled winter gardens, while the towers will be subtly lit internally.

Berkeley is packing in amenities such as concierge services, indoor pool and spa as well as a wifi-enabled public realm, a so-called “urban oasis”, to entice buyers who want to shake off the sweat of the city. The first phase, launching tomorrow, comprises 263 apartments in the main 42-storey tower. Prices from £595,000. Call 020 3411 7996. Completion is due in 2017.

Design creep is spreading from the Clerkenwell heartland through this area. Check out Goswell Road, the spine of the area that stretches to Angel, where designer homeware brands such as Knoll and Porcelanosa have opened showrooms alongside “starchitect” Zaha Hadid’s gallery. New eateries and boutiques are springing up in side streets.

Ermine Apartments is a collaboration between developer Thornsett and the Dame Alice Owen Trust, an educational foundation whose land holdings in the area date from Tudor times. Two-bedroom apartments are priced from £875,000. Call 020 7704 5618. “It’s a solid, safe address and a little cheaper than bordering areas,” says Adrian Plant of estate agent Currell.

Above the hustle: chic interiors include generous ceiling heights and full-heights windows at 250 City Road, EC1

Walk-to-work flats
During its Victorian heyday, City Road basin was one of the main canal centres in London and marked the halfway point on Regent’s Canal running between Little Venice and Limehouse. In the Eighties, part of the basin was filled in to provide land for an electricity substation, which blocked views and access. 

There has now been a remarkable transformation, however, with the nine-acre basin opened up to an open space overlooked by new apartments. Berkeley’s new scheme will similarly open up a previously inaccessible patch and provide a pedestrian route to north Clerkenwell. Young City professionals and Shoreditch designers are the mainstay of this revitalised district. “Previously they headed west but the new, modern apartment buildings and the chance to walk to work make an attractive proposition,” says Nick Davies of estate agent Stirling  Ackroyd.

The new wave of luxury high-rise flats is a step up for the area and is beginning to attract buyers from more expensive riverside districts such as Bankside. Canaletto is a sleek 31-storey glass-and-steel tower designed by celebrated Dutch architects, UNStudio. It will have three storeys of amenity space, including a spa and private cinema, below 190 apartments plus a Manhattan-style “club lounge” and garden terrace higher up the building. Prices start at £870,000 for two-bedroom apartment. Call 020 7608 1825.

Fronting another side of the canal basin is Lexicon, comprising three buildings, including 36-storey Silicon Tower — in total 307 apartments, 69 for shared ownership. Prices from £695,000. Call 020 7205 4017.

From £895,000: apartments at The Eagle, near Old Street tech hub. Call 020 7205 2997

The Eagle, nearer to the Old Street tech hub, has 276 apartments in an Art Deco-style tower. Prices from £895,000. Call developer Mount Anvil on 020 7205 2997. Knight Frank tips this eastern fringe of the Square Mile to be one of the top price growth areas over the next five years, with values reaching £1,500 a square foot.

The eastern side of the canal basin falls into Hackney borough and has a grittier feel — but it is smartening up, too. Wenlock Street is a focus for development. Coming soon are apartments at Banyan Wharf, part of the Brewery Project wrapping around The Wenlock Arms. This prized local pub is where footballer David Beckham used to drink with his grandfather, who lived on a neighbouring council estate. Call Regal Homes on 020 7328 7171 for further information on the development.

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