London's new ready-made districts: King's Cross, Nine Elms and Victoria
Across London, homes are being built in what are known as “place-making” schemes because they include new shops, offices, leisure facilities, cultural venues, transport links and even schools. Aimed at reviving communities and economic growth, place-making has been gaining popularity with Britain’s planners and politicians since the early Nineties.
Place-making involves developers, landlords and councils working together to transform redundant industrial sites or tired business districts into places where people want to live. It sweeps away old planning practices of putting homes, offices and shops into separate zones, by deliberately clustering them so they help each other.
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The London Mayor has been encouraging place-making initiatives, including those at King’s Cross, Victoria and Nine Elms. Architect Terry Farrell, who master-planned the 500-acre Nine Elms project, Embassy Gardens, at Vauxhall, says new upmarket districts are being created in London to rival traditional locations like South Kensington.
“In the past when we talked about location, location, location, it always invariably meant in the established places,” he says. “But now, because of the growth and change in London, people are starting to realise that you can create places and do so in unusual locations.”
Key to place-making is creating public spaces that act as focal points. Completed in June 2012, Granary Square is the first of 10 new public spaces that will be created by developer Argent in its regeneration of the 67-acre King’s Cross site. Nine Elms will have Linear Park, a one kilometre-long stretch of riverside expanse that will link Battersea Power Station in the west with Vauxhall Bridge to the east.
Social activities, such as concerts, are encouraged in public spaces to build community spirit. Sometimes public art is installed to provide landmarks.
Dominic Grace, director at property consultancy Savills, says improved road and public transport links are essential to creating a new place because it must be accessible to draw people in. Developers want Transport for London to extend the Northern line to Nine Elms and Battersea.
Thousands of new homes are being built. At Nine Elms there will be 16,000 dwellings, at King's Cross 1,900, and Victoria at least 600. Homes on the market today include 100 flats at Kings Gate House, Victoria Street, a residential block being constructed by developer Land Securities. It forms part of the company’s £2 billion ongoing transformation of Victoria from a concrete canyon where few people linger to a new “Covent Garden” of shops, bars, theatres, homes and offices bounded by Buckingham Palace, Westminster Cathedral and a revamped Victoria station, says Tom Eshelby, residential property director at Land Securities.
“In five years’ time, if people want to have a date there (Victoria), and meet up and have a good quality meal, then that would be a big change from how the area has been seen,” he says.
Starting prices for Kings Gate House apartments start at £850,000 for one-bedders. Other residential developers are building homes in Victoria in response to its changing environment.
Homes in “place-making” locations can be popular. Developer Ballymore Group has sold 90 per cent of the 514 flats released for sale in phase one of its Embassy Gardens scheme at Nine Elms. Prices start at £399,000 for one-bedroom flats.