New homes are the brightest stars of London's West End
* The Tottenham Court Road area is undergoing its biggest change since the Sixties as Crossrail revamps the surrounding area
* The Crown Estate is launching the biggest batch of new homes in Regent Street since the road was built 200 years ago
The West End is not just for clubbers, theatregoers and tourists — owning a home there has become a status symbol among rich young Londoners who would rather splash their cash on a sophisticated lifestyle in the heart of an international city than on an old-school country pile.
The Crown Estate, ever alert to the market, this week launches the biggest batch of new homes in Regent Street since the road was built 200 years ago — an initiative that is helping to nudge neighbouring locations into action. The aim is to rid the West End of its shabby tourist-tat shops, smartening its streets and raising its place in the residential pecking order with imaginative architecture and glamorous cutting-edge design.
The Crown Estate’s new launching features 24 flats converted from office space, part of a £1.5 billion investment programme spreading into neighbouring St James’s. These flats are in Albany House and in nearby Mortimer Street and are available for rent from £500 a week.
Another notable launch is The Saint Martins Lofts, a splendid conversion of the former Central St Martins School of Art and Design that includes a new Foyles bookshop. Relocation of the Charing Cross Road college to King’s Cross has freed up the Thirties building, whose long list of famous alumni includes Terence Conran, Peter Blake, Gilbert and George, Antony Gormley, Alexander McQueen and Jarvis Cocker. Punk rock legends the Sex Pistols played their debut gig there in 1975.
Lofts are being created behind the prized Arts & Crafts-style façade with its wonderful huge Crittall windows, up to 21ft high. Double-height sculpture and painting studios have been turned into light-filled lateral apartments and duplexes, while a pair of spectacular penthouses are a rooftop addition. Each space has an individual floor plan and some have generous-size terraces. The flats range from 1,259sq ft to 2,896sq ft and will have impressive contemporary interior design that respects the site’s avant-garde pedigree.
“Every so often there is a project that sets the market alight, and this is it,” says Ben Walden-Jones of selling agent Jones Lang LaSalle. “It’s a genuine loft scheme, in the spirit of the original New York lofts and the match of anything in London.” The homes are striking a chord with the Soho and Covent Garden creative community of record producers, theatre directors, ad execs and new media entrepreneurs, he adds. Completion is scheduled for spring 2014. Prices start at £2,275,000. Call 020 7993 7395.
This patch of the West End is undergoing its biggest change since the Sixties. The catalyst is the Crossrail station being built at Tottenham Court Road where “over-site” development is set to bring more new homes, an upgraded retail quarter and transform the scruffy public realm around listed Centre Point, London’s original Pop Art skyscraper, whose owner, Almacantar, has won planning permission for conversion to 82 apartments.
The project will transform a dead zone, hostile to pedestrians, into a so-called destination hub, with new shop frontages and restaurants facing on to a Continental-style piazza. The neighbourhood has already been given a facelift with a mixed-use scheme called Central St Giles, which has 56 private apartments, while developers and Camden council are refining a major scheme to revamp one of pop music’s spiritual homes, Denmark Street, better known as Tin Pan Alley.
Envisaged is an “urban retail gallery” and public space directly in front of the Tube station exit that aims to attract up to 250,000 people who use the transport interchange each day.
The Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road has been bought by Soho Estates and is earmarked for redevelopment, while demolition of the old Astoria music venue has paved the way for an office and residential scheme plus a new 350-seat theatre that will open up views of pretty Soho Square.
Homes are sprouting in unlikely pockets, including previously out-of-bounds Soho backstreets. At Ham Yard, behind Piccadilly Circus, a project by hotel group Firmdale includes 22 apartments and a new public square linking the scheme to surrounding streets.
Trenchard House, a former police section block on Broadwick Street is being remodelled into 78 flats by Barratt and United House. To register, call 0845 4606011. Royal Mail’s Rathbone Place post office depot is another key project. Great Portland Estates has submitted plans to create 162 homes, offices and shops in a group of buildings around a central green space, with new pedestrian routes through the site to fashionable pockets of Fitzrovia. This “micro area” probably has the best growth potential in central London, according to estate agent Wetherell, which has noted a development ripple spreading out of high-priced Mayfair and Marylebone. Currently, Soho and Fitzrovia are the cheapest central addresses, with average values of £1,150 per square foot.
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 £600,000, within the new Help to Buy limit. West End homes appeal particularly to film, fashion, theatre and hospitality industry workers who like to mix business with pleasure and feed off the vibe. Downsizers moving from outside the capital are also snapping up apartments so they can effortlessly enjoy the central London lifestyle.
“Crown Estate’s makeover of Regent Street is having a huge impact on the wider area,” says Tim Wright of Jones Lang LaSalle. Uncharacteristically scruffy side streets either side of Haymarket, dominated by souvenir shops and chain restaurants, are the focus of a £500 million St James’s facelift that aims to attract top-brand shops and double the number of homes over the next 10 years. St James’s Gateway is the first big project and includes a scheme of flats built behind a listed façade at 20 Jermyn Street, with rents starting at £700 a week. Call WA Ellis on 020 7306 1654.
For show-offs, arguably the ultimate West End pads are W Residences. These have been created at the top of a boutique hotel on the site of the former Swiss Centre in Leicester Square. Apartments with views over the square and Piccadilly Circus’s neon advertising displays have flash interior design (silky and “bondage-style”) and are aimed at celebrity types and extroverts — even the four-poster bed is positioned facing curtainless floor-to-ceiling windows. For rent, two-bedroom apartments cost from £1,950 a week. Call 020 7480 6848 for full details.