Victoria's £2-billion transformation as its coach station becomes a cultural quarter with homes, shops and arts venues

Victoria's £2-billion transformation as its coach station becomes a cultural quarter with homes, shops and arts venues

Goodbye blighted coach station - hello cultural quarter, a £2 billion makeover and Belgravia Bling. Victoria's secret is finally out
* A £2 billion makeover will fuse Victoria and Pimlico, on one side of Green Park, and St James's and Belgravia on the other

* The transformation is being driven by the redevelopment of Art Deco Victoria coach station, turning the 10-acre site into a new "city quarter", with homes, shops and cultural venues

* Prime properties include Palace View; Abell & Cleland; Catherine Place and 20 Jermyn Street

Cardinal Place
Cardinal Place, the snazzy new shopping and dining complex housed in a new-age glass capsule, is part of the grand transformation of Victoria

The Queen has done rather well out of Buckingham Palace. When she came to the throne in 1952 the one-time townhouse of the Duke of Buckingham, built in 1705, with its 830,000sq ft of living space and 40 acres of landscaped gardens, was worth £11  million. Today it has a value of £1 billion. That’s a 9,000 per cent jump, according to the Nationwide Building Society.

The Palace gardens sit behind high security walls along Buckingham Palace Road, a surprisingly dreary street. Traffic jams and souvenir shops have lowered the tone of this busy thoroughfare dividing workaday Victoria from super-rich Belgravia, and probably nowhere else in London is there such a value gap either side of a main road.

The Victoria side of Buckingham Palace Road has always always been judged the wrong side of the tracks. Novelist Anthony Trollope understood this well: one of his fictional heroines was advised by a worldly guardian living in Belgravia to “avoid anywhere south of Eccleston Square”.

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Victoria coach station
Plans to transform Victoria coach station are driving wider change

From coach station to new city quarter
Now Victoria and Pimlico, on one side of Green Park, and St James’s and Belgravia on the other, are about to become one — with listed Victorian commercial buildings in Victoria being converted into prestigious homes.

The transformation is being driven by the redevelopment of Art Deco Victoria coach station. Landowner Grosvenor is keen to turn the 10-acre site in Buckingham Palace Road into a new “city quarter”, with homes, shops and cultural venues.

Transport for London owns the departure hall and has a short lease on the rest of the coach station. Grosvenor has appointed consultants to find an alternative site for the station, and Old Oak Common, a huge regeneration area near Wormwood Scrubs prison, has been mooted. Old Oak is earmarked to become a new super-transport hub integrating Crossrail and the proposed HS2 high-speed rail project.

Properties close to Buckingham Palace are already scrubbing up well. Uninviting “pie and a pint” Victorian pubs are upgrading to gastro status while St James Theatre, in nearby Palace Street, is central London’s first newly built theatre for 30 years.

“Until recently the price disparity between Victoria and Belgravia was astonishing, easily 50 per cent on average and in individual cases much more,” said Tom Hawkins of estate agent Hamptons International.

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Palace View
From £1.25 million: 14 flats and a penthouse at Palace View with views over Buckingham Palace mews from the roof terrace (020 7201 6699)

Victoria's new homes

Palace View, at 21 Buckingham Palace Road, is a new development of 14 flats including a three-bedroom penthouse, with roof terraces facing the royal mews. Priced from £1.25  million. Call Jones Lang LaSalle on 020 7201 6699.

When Grosvenor Gardens House was built in 1867, it was Britain’s first serviced apartment block. It later became offices and is now being transformed into 42 flats, complete with a swimming pool, private library and cinema, underground parking, plus 24-hour concierge services provided by neighbouring five-star hotel The Goring.

Holder of a Royal Warrant and known affectionately as “the royals’ B&B”, The Goring was where Kate Middleton repaired with her sister Pippa and mother Carole to spend her last night as a single woman and a commoner, before her wedding to Prince William in April 2011.

20 Jermyn Street
From £1.85 million: flats at 20 Jermyn Street come with a 125-year Crown Estate lease

Victoria train station: surrounding area gets facelift

A £2  billion facelift, spearheaded by property company Land Securities, is smartening up the area around Victoria train station. Victoria Street has been transformed, notably by the arrival of Cardinal Place shopping precinct, and the focus is on a blighted cluster of buildings forming a 5.5-acre island moments from the Palace.

Called Nova, the redeveloped site will bring five fresh buildings, including 205 flats, and create a new pedestrian link between a refurbished Victoria train station and the Royal Parks. Up to 800 new homes are being built in the wider area. Kings Gate, next to Westminster City Hall, will have 100 flats priced from £740,000. Call 020 7413 9000.

“Whereas Belgravia is as good as it gets, Victoria has room for improvement,” added Hawkins. “This is why we’re attracting City money. People know they are not buying at the top of the market.” Despite this, prices have raced ahead during the last three years, reaching £1,600 to £1,700 a square foot for new builds, such as apartments at a scheme called Abell & Cleland on Page Street. Call Berkeley Homes on 020 7720 4000.

Douglas House, backing on to Vincent Square, which has 13 acres of private playing fields owned by Westminster School, has been split into apartments priced from £1,495,000. Call Hamptons International on 020 7717 5315. Handsome red-brick Edwardian mansion blocks alongside Westminster Cathedral are the equal of anything in Kensington or Chelsea and are a reminder that Victoria was a coveted address in its pre-First World War heyday. Resales cost from about £700,000.

Heritage houses in streets closer to the Palace are prized. A six-bedroom townhouse on Catherine Place in the Birdcage Walk conservation area is for sale at £4.45 million — call Knight Frank on 020 3324 8051.

46 St James's Place
The de Savary Group's 46 St James's Place, with views to Piccadilly Circus, has £3.5 million flats and a £10 million penthouse. Call 020 7861 5487

The Capital’s smartest Address: St James’s

St James’s occupies the precious rectangle of land between the Palace and Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square and Green Park. Arguably the capital’s smartest address and certainly the most quintessentially English, it is discreet — but not as expensive as some buyers expect.

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The Crown Estate, the area’s major landowner, has unveiled plans for a gracious revamp that will double the number of homes over the next 10 years. Of the estate’s four million square feet of property in the area, only 2.5 per cent is residential. The objective is to push up values beyond £2,500 a square foot to match the best homes in Mayfair and Belgravia.

The first of these new developments are at 15 and 20 Jermyn Street. Forming part of the larger mixed-use St James’s Gateway project, 20 Jermyn Street consists of one- and two-bedroom flats built behind a listed façade, with the cachet of a 125-year Crown Estate lease. Prices from £1.85 million. The apartments at 15 Jermyn Street are for rent, starting at £700 a week. Call WA Ellis on 020 7306 1654.

Private developers are also unlocking sites. The De Savary Group, best known for its luxurious St James’s Club resorts, is launching a project at 46 St James’s Place. The building has been gutted to create three two-bedroom apartments priced at £3.5 million each, plus a £10 million penthouse. A ground-floor shop unit is also for sale, and the whole building can be purchased for £22.3 million. Call Knight Frank on 020 7861 5487.

Coming soon to imposing 88 St James’s Street, next to the St James’s Palace sentry boxes, are 10 apartments by the Carlyle Group hedge fund. Hobhouse Court, one the few new gated developments, proves you do not have to be the Duke of Buckingham to afford St James’s. Apartments cost from £745,000, or £450 a week to rent. Call GLP on 020 3324 6099.

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