Vauxhall and Nine Elms will be unrecognisable within a decade, polished up and ready to rock as London's main riverside regeneration zone. And within 20 years it will have emerged as a small city of smart towers and martini terraces as 16,000 new homes bury the area's grimy industrial roots below tons of stressed concrete and glass.
Last week, Tideway Wharf, a new waterfront complex of 752 apartments, was given approval and the first properties will soon be going on sale off-plan.
The project, currently a blocked-off five-acre industrial estate on Nine Elms, will be transformed and opened up to provide views of the Thames from a series of slender 20-storey apartment blocks. On the outside of each building there will be a Manhattan-style glass lift and the whole scheme will be topped by double-height duplexes shaped like the prow of a ship.
Each home will have at least one balcony with a minimum five square metres of outside space, and interiors will be larger than average - in response to Mayor Boris Johnson's new space standards. There will be landscaped grounds, a new park, courtyard gardens and a riverside promenade with pavement cafés. To register, contact St James on 020 7824 5743.
While the shadow of derelict Battersea Power Station still falls over the area, other initiatives in the wider Vauxhall area are coming to fruition.
Already under construction alongside Vauxhall Bridge is a sleek 50-storey circular skyscraper called, simply, The Tower. Plans for two more skyscrapers and a public square at traffic-clogged Vauxhall Cross have been unveiled; two new Northern line Tube stations are earmarked close to where the United States Embassy is relocating from its historic Mayfair base.
Vauxhall's big claim to fame is its location as a "gateway" to central London — barely a mile from the Palace of Westminster and Sloane Square. "It's been more of a place to pass through than a neighbourhood to reside in, but that's changing, and in a few years' time it will be a very different place," says Andrew Palmer of development consultant DTZ.
People looking to buy in Vauxhall are often young, always busy and include politicians who want a Division Bell address. St George Wharf, a cliff of riverside blocks, is the dominant presence (resales from £380,000). The Tower is targeting buyers with bigger budgets. Its 223 private flats are priced from £720,000. Comfort-cooled apartments have Bulthaup kitchens, marble-lined bathrooms, bespoke shelving and an AV system that dims lights, controls the heating, plays music and movies.
Floor-to-ceiling glazing makes the most of splendid views, while motorised exterior aluminium blinds prevent the messy window treatments that blight some modern glass buildings. The development will be run along the lines of a luxury hotel. Off-plan buyers have to make staged payments totalling 25 per cent before completion in 2014. Call 020 7042 7700, or visit thetower-onestgeorgewharf.co.uk. One of the two Northern line stations proposed for the area is at the Vauxhall end of Wandsworth Road (the other is at the power station), which will be a regeneration catalyst in its own right.
Families have found their way to Vauxhall thanks to its pockets of relatively affordable period housing. Bonnington Square, a secluded space near The Oval cricket ground, has a close-knit community, a legacy from the Seventies when the houses were occupied by eco-squatters who kick-started gentrification. There is a community garden, two cafés and an annual street parade. Today, houses cost about £700,000.
Fentiman Road, by Vauxhall Park, has good-value, four-storey, mid-Victorian houses, which are particularly popular with barristers and City types. Prices from £850,000, according to estate agent Daniel Cobb.
A grimy tract of land behind posh Albert Embankment, which for decades has been blighted by the railway, is beginning to show signs of improvement. Developers are scrambling for small industrial sites, aiming to put up boutique apartments when the market turns. Meanwhile, reincarnated railway arches have become restaurants and retail spaces.
The Zeitgeist, an authentic "German" pub in Black Prince Road, attracts German London-based expats and is another sign of the area's changing character. Nearby, the old Beaufoy Institute, a handsome Victorian school owned by Lambeth council, is a gem awaiting redevelopment.
Stylish and good value
Raza Shahid, a 31-year old accountant and part-time MBA student, bought a studio at This Space, part of a lively retail strip in Wandsworth Road. He was paying more than £1,000 a month in rent and wanted to get on the property ladder as an investment.
"I looked everywhere in Zones 1 and 2. Most places were too expensive but Vauxhall stood out as cheaper and a place with potential. I'm buying into the regeneration at an early stage, which I hope will pay off." This Space, a decent if ungentrified address, is now striking a chord with first-time buyers, being stylish, good value for money and fairly central. According to property analyst Molior, the development is the best-selling new-build scheme south of the river.
The former Sixties college has been redeveloped into 173 apartments, some with big terraces overlooking a landscaped courtyard, others with a city view. An original 180-seat auditorium has been leased to a local theatre group, while restaurants occupy the street-level spaces.
A smart entrance foyer is staffed by a 24-hour concierge. Spacious communal areas and lift lobbies have sofas, making them places to relax rather than rush through.
Two-bedroom apartments start at £325,000. For more information, call 0845 180 0004