The demographic shift in London’s population has seen more and more people looking for a permanent home in the city’s centre — with parts of the West End now being turned into residential zones.
And now landowners, such as Shaftesbury in Soho, the Mercers’ Company in Covent Garden and Derwent in Fitzrovia, are working with local planners to create residential zones with newly designed public realms and pedestrian-friendly space.
These emerging districts allow residents to have chic shopping and nightlife on their doorsteps while enjoying a sense of belonging to a proper community. Independent shops, including grocers, are encouraged to move in to add to the village feel.
“London has become more like Paris, Barcelona and downtown Manhattan, where people enjoy being in the thick of it,” says Jonathan Hudson, of Fitzrovia estate agent Hudsons.
Homes are appearing in Regent Street, New Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road and Leicester Square as buyers demand Zone 1 living. Even unlikely pockets of Soho back streets are attractive to the creative-sector execs and entrepreneurs of the fashion, film advertising and theatre worlds. And, depending on the exact location, West End properties can be cheaper than homes in central London’s more established residential neighbourhoods such as Chelsea or Kensington, with prices starting below £500,000.
Downsizers moving from the suburbs are being joined by those coming into the centre to give up the tedious commute and high travel costs for a central London lifestyle.
A fresh setting for a Crown Estate gem
The Crown Estate, which owns huge tracts of the West End, has plans to transform the uncharacteristically scruffy side streets on either side of Haymarket, currently dominated by souvenir shops and chain restaurants. This facelift aims to attract more upmarket retailers with handsome above-shop apartments.
Nearby, even Oxford Street, so indelibly linked with shopping, is becoming a place to live. New West End Company, a business and property forum backed by Mayor Boris Johnson and Westminster council, has devised a £1.5 billion masterplan that is aiming to transform this crowded, and often stressful, thoroughfare into a clean, tree-lined, pedestrian-friendly boulevard adorned with public art.
New “gateways” are planned for Marble Arch, Tottenham Court Road, New Bond Street and Langham Place, and there will be 12 side-street “oases” for alfresco dining and boutique shopping.
Verge Mayfair — the name says it all — is a scheme of 10 apartments carved from a former office block where Oxford Street meets New Bond Street.
Whereas previously, this area’s property offering might have been crash pads for bachelor bankers, these are exquisitely designed loft-style apartments for discerning buyers looking to establish a central London life. The entrance on Dering Street opens on to a wide, catwalk-like reception foyer with marble flooring and limestone and polished-plaster walls. Spacious lift lobbies at each floor accentuate the sense of arrival. The homes have high ceilings, Milan-style contemporary interior design and range up to 1,873sq ft. Prices start at £1.05 million. Call Knight Frank on 020 7629 8171.
Redevelopment of Park House, opposite Selfridges, is the largest such project on Oxford Street for 40 years. The 500,000 sq ft new building will have luxury apartments on the upper floors, with street-level shops and office space. Flats will have their own quiet entrance on North Row. Completion is due in autumn this year. Visit landsecuritieslondon.com
Something about Soho
Hat Factory brings much-in-demand loft apartments to Soho. Tucked away behind Carnaby Street, the handsome listed Victorian former factory is being split into seven two- and three-bedroom apartments, with fabulous open-plan interiors and vaulted ceilings. Prices start at £925,000.
Resolution, the developer, has also released penthouses at The Regent, the residential element of redeveloped Marshall Street public baths, a cherished local art deco amenity. Prices from £3.65 million. Call Jones Lang LaSalle on 020 7993 7395.
Duchess House, a 13-apartment scheme in Fitzrovia’s improving northern quarter, includes a wow-factor duplex penthouse with a bird’s-eye view of the BT Tower. Prices start at £630,000. Call Hudsons on 020 7323 2277.
For show-offs, arguably the ultimate West End pads are W Residences. These apartments have been created at the top of a boutique hotel on the site of the former Swiss Centre on the corner of Leicester Square.
The luxury apartments, with views over the square and Piccadilly Circus’s neon advertising displays, have equally flashy interior design (described as silky and “bondage-style”) and are aimed at celebrity types and wannabes who want to be seen, literally — even the four-poster bed is positioned facing curtainless floor-to-ceiling windows.
For rent, two-bedroom apartments cost from £3,250 a week. Call 020 7087 5553.