Westminster fits the bill

Families are being enticed back to SW1 with the creation of a smart new residential address
A way of putting a new development on the residential map is to dream up an address that also reinvents the area. Welcome to Westrovia — a scheme of 27 flats in a lively pocket of the posh SW1 postcode.

As marketing creations go, this is an observant take on a changing neighbourhood. Westrovia, claims developer Bryant Homes, is the place where socially mixed Pimlico meets august Westminster — formerly two distinct districts that are now fusing because of encroaching development activity.

‘You have the grandeur of Westminster with Pimlico’s bohemian edge’

On the Westminster side of the boundary, institutional buildings are being converted to residential, while glamorous commercial occupiers are settling into designer offices. Global fashion brand Burberry has chosen Horseferry Road for its new headquarters; international art dealer Phillips de Pury has relocated to a former postal depot on Howick Place, where nine boutique flats are part of a “creative quarter”.

Houses and flats to rent in Westminster
Houses and flats for sale in Westminster

At Cardinal Place, a new retail precinct on Victoria Street, fashion shops Zara, Hobbs, Molton Brown and Topshop are grouped around a piazza with public artworks — a welcome arrival in an area once dismissed as “officeland”.

The Westrovia apartments are being built at the junction of Moreton Street and Vauxhall Bridge Road, on the site of a disused tennis court and student hostel butting up against St James the Less, a Grade I listed church. “It’s a wonderfully central and colourful place to live,” says Emma Freeman, Bryant’s sales director. “You have the grandeur of Westminster with Pimlico’s bohemian edge.”

The entrance to Horse Guards
The entrance to Horse Guards
Curvy and low-rise, the architecture is deliberately restrained so as not to fight for attention with the adjacent church and nearby Lillington Gardens, a well-regarded Sixties-built council estate, also listed, where right-to-buy resales can be picked up from about £350,000.

Prices at Westrovia range from £499,950 to £1.25 million, including underground parking. Completion is scheduled for winter 2009. For more information, call estate agent DTZ on 020 7408 7575.

Just to the north is Pimlico’s most vibrant and down-to-earth patch — the villagey hub around Wilton Road and Warwick Way. For years, this was held back by the close proximity of Victoria station but now it is smartening up. A street market still operates and small independent shops are replacing chain stores. Flats have been built above a new Sainsbury’s, collectively known as Pimlico Place (resales from about £400,000), while Tachbrook Triangle is a recently completed Barratt Homes scheme of 39 flats and 12 houses (all sold).

Land Securities, a giant property company with big land holdings in the area, is building 20 Gillingham Street, a scheme of 37 flats priced from £495,000. It will be a portered block with landscaped gardens and underground parking. Contact Hamptons International on 020 7834 4771.

Family favourites

La Poule au Pot restaurant
© Tony Buckingham
A “reliable old favourite” is La Poule au Pot restaurant, which brings a touch of France to SW1
Pimlico may look like Belgravia — lots of cream-coloured stucco Regency terraces — but it was never quite as smart. Grosvenor Estate sold off its Pimlico freeholds in the Fifties and many of the houses became grubby b&bs and bedsits. But the opening of the Victoria line in 1971 spurred gentrification. Traffic management followed, creating the Pimlico Grid — a network of one-way streets and cul-de-sacs around St George’s Drive. This pulled in middle-class families priced out of Chelsea.

Good-value property is still a draw but today buyers, including families, are moving there because they like what is happening to the neighbourhood.

Pimlico lacks open space but has some pretty garden squares — the best addresses are Eccleston Square, Warwick Square and St George’s Square, where values exceed £1,000 a square foot. Coming soon to St George’s Square is a refurbishment project. For more information, call estate agent Jackson-Stops & Staff on 020 7664 6649.

Dolphin Square, an Edwardian mansion block complex, is being rejuvenated following a change of ownership and long-tenanted flats are coming up for sale. Call Dolphin Square lettings on 020 7798 8591.

Houses and flats to rent in Pimlico
Houses and flats for sale in Pimlico

On the waterfront

Late in the day, Pimlico’s waterfront is also being redeveloped. A hidden dock, constructed by architect Thomas Cubitt to transport materials from the Thames for the building of Belgravia, has become Grosvenor Waterside, with up to 900 homes. Significantly, the final chunk of this scheme has been purchased by luxury developer Candy & Candy, which owns the trophy site across the road of Chelsea Barracks, currently in planning.

Mash of Belgravia on Elizabeth Street
© Tony Buckingham
Mash of Belgravia on Elizabeth Street is a fruiterers that has been established in the area since 1860
Insiders suspect Candy & Candy wants to control the supply of homes and, therefore, values in the immediate vicinity of Chelsea Barracks, where prices could comfortably fetch more than £3,000 a square foot — three times the Pimlico average.

Shop ’til you drop

Pimlico Road, stuffed with high-end-antiques shops and interior design boutiques, is Pimlico’s prettiest parade (still owned by Grosvenor Estate).

All eyes are on the nearby Art Deco bulk of Victoria coach station which covers about three acres. Most locals consider the terminus an eyesore and a magnet for undesirables. Swish new homes and shops might clean up what is a scruffy pocket, but replacement requires the consent of Transport for London, which is unlikely in the foreseeable future.

'Westminster remains remarkably overlooked in spite of being cheaper than other parts of SW1'

Houses and flats to rent in Pimlico
Houses and flats for sale in Pimlico

Independent antiques and interiors boutiques
The variety of high-end independent antiques and interiors boutiques adds to Pimlico’s villagey feel
New estate agency offices are opening to capitalise on the area’s rising residential cachet. Daniel Cobb (020 7222 1000) has crossed the river from Kennington to set up a branch on Horseferry Road. The firm’s Nick Cowley says Westminster remains remarkably overlooked in spite of being cheaper than other parts of SW1; fine period family houses can cost 30 per cent less.

Horseferry Road itself has seen a spate of residential development, including Westminster Green, formerly Westminster Hospital, and New Palace Place, next to the new Home Office. Even the local magistrates court has been snapped up by Barratt Homes, which will redevelop the site in a couple of years’ time. For more information, call 020 8326 7171. Former Rochester Row police station has already been transformed into swish apartments, many overlooking Vincent Square.

Barratt is soon to commence a scheme of 38 flats at a car park site on Rochester Row. This improving street is the umbilical cord running between Pimlico and Westminster — two non-identical twins that may yet come to share a common name, Westrovia.

Houses and flats to rent in Westminster
Houses and flats for sale in Westminster

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