Battersea's new homes rise as work on the US embassy begins
- Over the next decade, Nine Elms will be transformed faster and more dramatically than any other London area
- The imminent arrival of the American Embassy; the long-awaited refurbishment of Battersea Power Station as well as government plans to bring two new Tube stations to the area are all boosting Battersea's investment appeal
- New homes to snap up include The Tower, One St George Wharf by Vauxhall Bridge; Manhattan-style apartments at Embassy Gardens; 806 flats at Riverlight and Stewarts Lodge on Wandsworth Road
Construction of the new American embassy at Nine Elms, Battersea, starts today, putting the spotlight firmly on an exciting new era in London’s largest regeneration zone.
“Nine Elms will change faster and more dramatically than any other part of London over the next decade,” says Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth council. After several false dawns, the transformation of 195 precious hectares into a sparkling new waterfront district is at last not just under way, but in its stride.
The imminent arrival of the Americans is spurring the relocation of other diplomatic missions south of the river. The Dutch embassy is also moving to Nine Elms and the Chinese government has shortlisted the area for its new embassy. Blue chip corporations are likely to follow, which will boost Battersea’s investment appeal.
Coinciding with ground works for the glass-cube US embassy designed by Kieran Timberlake Architects is the unveiling of architectural designs for the long-awaited refurbishment of Battersea Power Station, while opening next week is a public inquiry into the government-backed Northern line extension that will bring two new Tube stations to the area by 2019.
The first residents of this emerging neighbourhood have arrived too, with completion of The Tower, One St George Wharf, a 52-storey, cylindrical skyscraper alongside Vauxhall Bridge. All 211 apartments, including a mega-penthouse described as “a super-yacht in the sky” which occupies an entire floor of the building, were snapped up off-plan at prices in excess of £2,000 a square foot — three times the value of property in the area five years ago.
All in all, 25 major building projects have been given the green light. More than 1,000 homes are under construction, a further 10,000 have planning permission and another 5,000 are in the pipeline.
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A district built to last: where to buy in Nine Elms
As well as the Tube, the area’s gyratory system is being redesigned and a new Thames footbridge is planned, with landing points near the US embassy and Dolphin Square in Pimlico.
Other public realm works include a linear park, inspired by New York’s much-praised Highline project, a mile-long aerial greenway on an elevated section of disused railway. The park will be the pedestrian spine of this new district, passing through Embassy Gardens, a complex of 1,982 homes that will form a horseshoe around the new American embassy.
Rather than a solitary skyscraper, Embassy Gardens has buildings of varying height and character, influenced by the architecture of Manhattan’s Meatpacking District and London’s Edwardian mansion blocks — constructed of brick rather than glass and steel to suggest permanence and solidity, with communal courtyards and planted roofs. The scheme will have a resort-style spa, a private club and business centre plus bars, a restaurant and a Waitrose store. Prices have yet to be released. Call 0800 404 9009.
Nearby Riverlight has 806 apartments in five slender buildings up to 20 storeys, each topped by double-height duplexes shaped like the prow of a ship. Prices from £680,000 for a one-bedroom apartment. Call St James on 020 7870 9620. Other key sites include Royal Mail’s 13-acre central London depot, where 2,000 homes are earmarked, and the £2 billion makeover of New Covent Garden Market, which will have homes alongside a Borough Market-style food quarter, while a joint venture between Barratt and Sainsbury will bring 750 homes next to and above the new Northern line station at Wandsworth Road.
Mayor Boris Johnson’s designation of Nine Elms as an “opportunity area” has enabled quicker-than-expected progress through a fast-track planning framework. Land swallowed up by factory sheds and light industrial premises has been reclassified to commercial and residential use, creating so-called “development value”.
It will likely be 20 years before the transformation is complete, meaning home buyers will have to commit to the area for the longer term in order to reap the benefits of better amenities and infrastructure.
Some sceptical property insiders predict an oversupply of homes which may deflate prices in the future. “Given the scale and time frame of the regeneration, mini cycles are likely, as with the Stratford property market in the run-up to the 2012 Games,” says one.
Buoyant developers are aggressively marketing flats abroad and pushing up prices with each new phase in the UK.
Traditionally the area’s Achilles’ heel has been the absence of a Tube line —the river gets horribly in the way — but the Northern line spur from Kennington will plug Battersea into the network for the first time and help to unlock the grimier hinterland.
Fringe benefits: a growing community
Nine Elms is framed by the Thames and a snaking railway viaduct where adjoining land has been colonised by car mechanics and scrap metal dealers. A longer-term council objective is to refurbish and open up derelict railway arches and upgrade the sprawling area the other side of the tracks, east towards Wandsworth Road, a patch already being targeted by bargain- hungry home buyers.
Redevelopment of a Sixties-built college into a scheme of 231 flats called This Space proved a hit with young buyers. And nearing completion on the same lively strip of Wandsworth Road is Stewarts Lodge — 33 apartments priced from £315,000. Call Henley Homes on 020 7401 8777. An earlier wave of regeneration between Albert Bridge and Battersea Bridge has resulted in a smart residential quarter around which is a growing community of creative-sector companies and the Royal College of Art’s new campus. “It’s a mini Shoreditch,” says Charlie Gilkes, 29, co-founder of Bunga Bunga, a kitsch pizzeria and late-night karaoke venue.
Old Etonian Gilkes, a friend of Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, opened the business with Duncan Stirling following their success with Maggie’s Eighties-themed nightclub in Fulham Road, and Barts, an American-style speakeasy in Sloane Avenue.
The old village is just discernible around pretty Battersea Square, a cobbled hub at the top of the high street that butts up against council estates and conservation areas. Among the latter is the sought-after “Little India” enclave, with road names straight out of the Raj — Cabul, Afghan, Khyber and Candahar.
So reborn Nine Elms will not sit in splendid isolation. But it could well be the last time the capital will see the creation of a completely new district built where none existed before — and within a mile of the Palace of Westminster and Sloane Square.