Victoria’s unsung location at the dead centre of London has been the area’s great secret. It is familiar only for its train and coach stations, which for decades have delivered hordes of civil servants to Whitehall’s ministries.
Yet despite being part of the prestige SW1 postcode, Victoria has been passed over by many as a place to live.
'The going rate for property in Victoria is cheaper than many central London buyers expect to pay for the SW1 postcode'
Soon, however, Victoria will be hard to ignore: the first phase of its £2 billion redevelopment launches this week with 800 new apartments in Wellington House, designed with human-scale homes and shops, built around courtyards with adjoining passages — sweeping away the grey-slab office blocks dominating windswept Victoria Street.
Following closely on are 102 homes at redeveloped Kingsgate House, formerly Westminster City Council’s base, while Victoria Circle, a new name for a blighted island site moments from Buckingham Palace, will have five fresh buildings including a modernist-style apartment complex. Portland House, a Sixties office tower on Bressenden Place, is also earmarked for homes. Call 020 7024 3890.
A variety of architectural styles for mixed-use buildings will bring vitality to a new district, says Tom Eshelby, director of developer Land Securities.
About 1.8 million square feet of new office space is due to be completed by 2019 and much of this will be occupied by creative-sector companies rather than government departments.
Eshelby calls them the “New Victorians” - fashionable brands such as Burberry and Jimmy Choo, auctioneer Phillips de Pury, Channel 4 and technology giant Microsoft, who have already set up in the area.
Prices to soar
Youthful new groups of white-collar workers combined with the fresh designer neighbourhood will trigger demand for new homes in the area. Knight Frank tips Victoria as a property hot spot, predicting prices to rise by a staggering 48 per cent by 2016 on the back of regeneration.
Dovetailing with Land Securities’ masterplan is a £700 million upgrade of Victoria station, while House of Fraser plans a makeover of its Victoria Street department store.
The going rate for property in Victoria remains about £1,000-£1,200 a square foot, which is cheaper than many central London buyers expect to pay for the SW1 postcode.
But with the area’s rising status this is expected to be £1,500 a square foot for smart new apartments — especially as Victoria lies on the affluent west side of London and borders posh Belgravia, where values are up to three times higher.
The area was not always second best. Handsome and spacious red-brick Edwardian mansion blocks alongside Westminster Cathedral (“the equal of anything in Kensington or Chelsea,” says Tom Eshelby) are a reminder that Victoria was once a top address. Re-sales here cost from about £700,000 and make a very good buy compared to brand-new apartments, which carry a premium.
Transport for London has splendid art deco headquarters at 55 Broadway, above St James’s Park Tube, and this is likely to come forward for conversion to residential.
Berkeley Homes has snapped up former ministry buildings Abell House in John Islip Street and Cleland House in Page Street, and later this year 23 flats at One Howick Place will be offered for sale or rent by developer Terrace Hill.
Just to the north is the area’s most lively and down-to-earth patch — the hub around Wilton Road and Warwick Way. For years, this was held back by the close proximity of Victoria station but it is now smartening up. There is a street market and small independent shops are replacing chain stores.
Flats have been built above a new Sainsbury’s, collectively known as Pimlico Place (re-sales from about £400,000), while Tachbrook Triangle is a recently completed scheme of 39 flats and 12 houses.
All eyes are on the nearby art deco bulk of Victoria coach station, about three acres, right on the cusp of Belgravia. Most locals consider the terminus an eyesore and a magnet for undesirables. Westminster City Council would prefer the coach station to be relocated to another part of the borough.
Stylish new homes and shops would clean up this scruffy pocket, but replacement requires the consent of Transport for London. If it agreed to the move, however, who wouldn’t want to live within walking distance of the stunning, newly refurbished Grosvenor Estate’s Elizabeth Street.