Property stars, like celebrities, fall out of fashion, and so it was with Regent's Park.
Despite its John Nash terrace mansions and sweeping green spaces, it lost its gloss, pushed aside by the fashionable highlife of Notting Hill and Belgravia and nudged off the best-address register. But there are plans to embrace Regent's Park once again in a bigger picture.
'Wealthy buyers from abroad want magnificent houses, and the value per square foot has doubled'
High-profile London architect Sir Terry Farrell is based in Marylebone and has a long-standing interest in urban planning and the wider area around the Royal Parks.
His masterplan is to create, with Westminster council and local land and property owners, a Barcelona-type Ramblas boulevard running from the park via Marylebone to Piccadilly Circus, with the aim of establishing a "grand route", a scheme first envisaged by the architect Nash in the early 19th century and commissioned by the Prince Regent (later George IV) in 1811.
Nash master-planned a district stretching north from Mayfair to an area then known as Marylebone Park, but the plans never left the drawing board. Then came the wars and bomb damage, and speculative redevelopment in the 20th century broke up the uniformity of the district.
Nash did, however, create his Outer Circle: a great ring road enclosing the 487 acres of Regent's Park. It remains the capital's best example of large-scale civic planning, a series of grand terraces made up of houses, each of which appears a single classical palace.
Farrell wants to unite this area with the villages around the park, from leafy St John's Wood in the west to gritty new-look Euston in the east, in a route of wide pavements with less traffic and more signposting of cultural attractions along the way, from the park down Portland Place, Langham Place, across Oxford Street to Regent's Street and into Piccadilly.
The plan is still at the talking stage but the properties in the area are revving up for change. Originally there were 374 Outer Circle houses; many became prestigious corporate offices and educational institutes. They are now reverting to residential.
Cornwall Terrace, in the south-west corner, has become eight double-fronted mansions ranging from 8,000 to 15,000sq ft, with views of the park's boating lake. Priced from £29 million, they mark an elegant residential rebirth for the park.
Oakmayne, a company that previously focused on mid-market regeneration projects at Borough Market and Elephant & Castle, has been watching Regent's Park for some time, believing that wealthy international buyers want magnificent houses. And they have placed a high price tag on their ambitions. Values for the area have doubled, from £1,500 to £3,000 a square foot.
"Regent's Park had lost its way and become more a north London suburb than a prime central London address," says James Simpson, partner at Knight Frank. "Buyers were usually locals and there was a lid on prices, but this new global market has gathered pace, ironically, since the 2008 banking crisis." These homes offer the best of both worlds - beautiful period architecture and luxurious modern interiors. Call 020 7861 5487.
There is a sprinkling of much cheaper apartments and mews cottages, often on short Crown Estate leases, but there the new breed of chauffeur-driven super-rich reign. Younger residents complain about the lack of street life and luxury drop-in shops and restaurants, but parents approve of the absence of any form of "vulgar" commerce in this charmed world.
The nearest place to shop, a short walk across Regent's Park, is the calm, unblighted village of St John's Wood, where the pretty, upmarket high street is the place for breakfast on a Saturday morning. Here the pace is slower, people know each other, you see the same faces. Americans love it, and an axis has formed with the banking community at Canary Wharf, a convenient hop on the Jubilee line. The wide choice of homes spans from large, elegant Regency villas to small mews houses. The trend is to buy and tear down the old houses, and rebuild bigger with open-plan internal spaces and all mod cons.
The sound of leather on willow that drifts across from Lord's cricket ground sets the tone - but this calm will soon be replaced by construction noise, as a £400 million redevelopment of the 16-acre sports mecca will be financed by the sale of 156 new apartments, built onsite above disused Victorian railway tunnels at the Nursery End by Wellington Road.
Tate Modern architect Herzog & de Meuron has designed five glass-fronted apartment blocks. Below these will be a village with health and fitness club, sports injury clinic, restaurants and a museum.
Marylebone Cricket Club is presently choosing its builder. Homes will sell for £2,500 a sq ft. The MCC's 18,000 members, as well as Westminster City Council, have to approve the scheme, which will begin after the Olympics (Lord's is a venue for the archery).
Last month, St John's Wood Barracks got planning permission. Trustees of the Eyre Estate will build 133 homes - 12 new apartment blocks, eight villas and seven terrace town houses - after the King's Troop relocates in 2012. A listed riding school building will be converted into a private leisure centre.
A handsome 19th-century baptist church in Abbey Road, opposite the famous recording studios, has now been redeveloped into 13 apartments, including a double-height penthouse incorporating the dome of the church and original bell towers converted into bedrooms. Prices from £550,000. Call DTZ on 020 3296 3837.
Euston on a fast track
Traditionally, Euston has been a place to pass through rather than a place to live. The busy train station taking commuters and intercity travellers north is a transient and fragmented neighbourhood.
Office towers loom over car-clogged Euston Road, the congestion charge boundary, one of the capital's most pedestrian-unfriendly thoroughfares.
Yet only a short stroll away are the villagey backstreets of Fitzrovia and Marylebone, by Regent's Park. One Osnaburgh Street, a new 20-storey residential tower, is part of the new Regent's Place, a 13-acre managed estate.
The arrival of these swish homes coincides with plans for a £1 billion facelift of 15 acres around Euston station and a proposal by Farrell to create a public park with trees and water features on decking above traffic-choked Euston underpass.
Regent's Place is already a hub - 7,000 people work there, and within this mixed-use milieu are landscaped open spaces with trophy public artworks. All 62 apartments at One Osnaburgh Street were snapped up off-plan three years ago (resales from £400,000, according to estate agent Goldschmidt & Howland).
Another 100 new homes are part of a phase called North East Quadrant, currently under way. Flats priced from £375,000 are available now at Allsop Place, a 31-home new block between the park and Marylebone Road. Call Savills on 020 7016 3808.