The Shard is at the sharp end of London's rapidly shifting cityscape
As the Shard, Europe's tallest tower, races towards completion before the summer's Olympics, the ground around it at London Bridge changes shape almost daily, luring buyers into an exciting new quarter.
No single building has had such a significant impact on a London neighbourhood since One Canada Square launched the Canary Wharf business district 20 years ago.
The Shard, heralded as a vertical city, is, like the Olympic Park in Stratford, a potent symbol of "new era" London and the cause of a shift eastward in the capital's centre of gravity.
London Bridge station will be the capital's busiest transport hub during the Olympics, being both a mainline station and an interchange for the Jubilee line to Stratford and Greenwich. It is also where people will alight to get to the temporary "London Park", by City Hall on the Thames, to watch Olympic events on big screens.
The Shard, heralded as a vertical city, is, like the Olympic Park, a potent symbol of 'new era' London
Architect Renzo Piano's 1,017ft glass spike is three times the height of St Paul's and, according to Professor Tony Travers, director of the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics, has created a "new mental geography" of the capital.
One example of this is the way the Shard suddenly makes obvious what every black cab driver has known forever — that the shortest route from Parliament to the Bank of England is via London Bridge. The three landmarks almost form a straight line.
The London Bridge regeneration challenge is to integrate this 21st-century tower with a patch of Victorian London. Network Rail is undertaking a £700 million makeover of the station and (controversially) cutting new viaducts through ancient Borough Market, quickening the commuter links from Bedford in the north and Brighton to the south.
The aim is for a new plaza to transform the currently pedestrian-unfriendly station approach. London Bridge Quarter is the name of the wider development zone. The plan is to open up a run-down and blocked-off network of Victorian railway arches along St Thomas Street into a new neighbourhood linking with Hay's Galleria and Bermondsey Street.
Guy's Hospital, apparently shamed into action, also plans to reclad its neighbouring ugly tower.
Many more homes are on the way, not least the spectacular apartments in the Shard itself. With a total of 12,000 employees scheduled to work at the building, big property ripples are expected to be felt not just locally, but also within a 20-minute commuter corridor between London Bridge and south-east London.
The obvious beneficiaries will be Bermondsey and London's most central ungentrified neighbourhood — Elephant and Castle.
Bermondsey Street is arguably the best address. Only moments from the Shard, it is a touch away from the South Bank tourist trail and, for now at least, appeals more to in-the-know locals.
A new White Cube gallery is the latest arrival to the area, joining a longstanding community of designers and artists such as Zandra Rhodes and "punk sculptor" Nick Logan.
Values typically range between £700 and £900 per square foot (or from about £350,000 for a one-bedroom flat to £1.25 million for a big loft or penthouse). Find property in Bermondsey.
City broker Molly Richards, 23, bought an apartment at a new development called Grange Garden where prices start from £300,000 (call 020 7252 0829 for details).
With a 24-hour concierge, secure refrigerated storage area for internet grocery deliveries, a screening room for films and sports matches and a tranquil Japanese-landscaped courtyard, it is the sort of scheme that appeals to busy young professionals.
"I have a demanding job and wanted a short journey to my office," Molly explains. Walking to work, past the Shard, takes less than 20 minutes.
George Row, closer to fashionable Shad Thames, the historic riverside street next to Tower Bridge, is a new-build scheme of 23 apartments. Prices start from £324,995. Contact Linden Homes on 01883 334443.
Like many Londoners, television producer Dan Green has been watching the Shard rise into the sky. He and his wife, Meryck, a recording studio manager, both work in Soho but recently moved to Hither Green in south-east London because of the quick commute to work via London Bridge, only nine minutes on the train.
The couple had been renting in Camden and preferred north London, but friends suggested they look south of the river for better value.
Blackheath and Dulwich were too expensive, so they studied journey times from different places. "Hither Green was a revelation," says Meryck. "Properties here are a snip compared to other parts of London. There are some lovely conservation areas and parks. It feels an area on the up. We believe the Shard will give the place a big boost as office workers begin to appreciate its merits."
Similar three-bedroom flats there are currently priced at about £300,000. Find homes in Hither Green.
New homes offer an alternative to the standard terrace housing. The Old Biscuit Factory is a scheme of apartments and townhouses in Staplehurst Road, SE13, close to Hither Green station. Prices from £189,950. Call Bellway on 0845 459 5041.
GLASS SKYSCRAPER IS LONG ON LUXURY
The Shard has 78 storeys and will comprise a five-star Shangri-La Hotel with spa, 27 floors of offices, three floors of restaurants, a public viewing gallery and prestige apartments on floors 53 to 65.
When launched later this year, the sky-high homes are expected to reach similarly towering prices — almost certainly well in excess of £4,000 per square foot.
With more than 6,000sq ft of double-height internal space on average, each will be several times bigger than a typical semi-detached house.
Two of the apartments span entire floors, three are duplexes and seven are "simplexes" (a new-fangled name for huge lateral flats).
The homes will each have their own lift from street level and feature enclosed winter gardens. Prices for some of the flats could top £36 million.