From Fantasy To Reality
Two high profile London developments make good on their off plan promises.
Hong Kong investors have heard time and again about new London projects that were going to revolutionise entire districts and set new standards for urban living. In UK development, ‘placemaking' is dangerously close to becoming a gimmick-y marketing tool, akin to slapping ‘green' or ‘natural' on everything from GM (yes, the car manufacturer) to pet food.
As savvy as Hong Kong investors are, it still requires mental gymnastics to envision how a brownfield site or a derelict river dock could turn into one of London's next great destinations. But now buzzing with eateries, shops, weekend markets, cultural amenities, students, professionals and visitors every day, the massive King's Cross regeneration is living, breathing proof that placemaking works. Also living and breathing in other parts of London are Lodha Group's Lincoln Square and Stanhope's Television Centre.
London is once again proving resilient, with Brexit worries largely on the backburner these days. Rumblings of banks packing up for greener, more European pastures in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Dublin appear to be exploratory despite continental cities actively wooing businesses and talent. In many cases, exploratory is as good as it gets. “At the moment the evidence seems to be that there hasn't been the migration of jobs the media likes to report—so far—and though they may want to move, there isn't the availability of space,” theorises Stanhope sales and marketing director Peter Allen. “Frankfurt can't meet the demand. The only tall tower in Paris, Tour Montparnasse, is 20 storeys. Everything else is eight.”
London's last (temporary) mass exodus followed the 2008 Lehman collapse, but Brexit is a very different beast, and European dynamics could change, but the numbers appear to remain in Ol' Blighty's favour for now; Savills research indicated the first quarter of 2018 recorded US$7.5 billion worth of cross-border inbound investment into London—ahead of New York ($3.2 billion), and emerging rivals Amsterdam and Paris ($2.7 and $2.6 billion respectively). Brexit apprehension is down, political risk is still low, fundamentals are strong, and London has trounced Dublin and Frankfurt in banking job vacancies. The only city ahead of London in value terms? Hong Kong with $12 billion. For now, London still needs those new places.
Billed by Lodha as a place “where great minds live,” Lincoln Square is less about placemaking than place-enhancing. Within walking distance of Lincoln Square are Lincoln's Inn Fields, the London School of Economics, the British Museum, the Royal Courts of Justice, King's College, the College of Surgeons, and offices for Facebook, Amazon, EY, pwc, The London Times, Goldman Sachs, Google, and The Guardian among others. It goes without saying that the dining, shopping and entertainment in nearby Covent Garden, Soho, Fitzrovia and on the riverfront are peerless, as are the elegant designs by Patricia Urquiola and Bowler James Brindley among others. For those that do require transit, impeccable connections can be found at Holborn, Chancery Lane, Temple and Covent Garden. Places don't come more complete.
"Lincoln Square is … [in] an ancient neighbourhood of London that is steeped in history in addition to the famous academic, legal and cultural institutions nearby. It is one of the finest postcodes known for its proximity to the City and also the cultural hub of Covent Garden,” states Lodha UK sales director Charlie Walsh, of what the project brings to the district. “We are passionate about design, and Lincoln Square reflects this through each carefully considered detail to ensure the development lies sympathetically with its immediate surroundings. The work of PLP Architecture and [landscape architects] Gustafson Porter + Bowman will undoubtedly make Lincoln Square a timeless masterpiece."
Lincoln Square's enviable location for professionals meant 50% of its 221 flats sold 12 months before completion, but the strong tenant pool in tech, finance and education industries bodes well for investors. Lodha is estimating monthly rental rates from £2,800 for studios up to £18,000 for three-bedroom flats (HK$30,000 to $190,000).
The Cool Kid
In a bit of a contrast to Lincoln Square's lawyerly, traditional polish is Television Centre in the established, bustling White City regeneration. Anchored by the old BBC TV studios—the Question Mark—the 倫敦對上一次面對（短暫性）大量職位流失是在2008年雷曼倒閉之後，但脫歐卻是另一回事，歐洲隨時也有變動，儘管如此，目前所有數據對英國有利。第一太平戴維斯研究指出2018年首季，倫敦的跨國入境投資總額錄得75億美元，較紐約（32億）、新興對手阿姆斯特丹及巴黎（分別為27億和26億）高。脫歐憂慮下降、政治風險偏低、基礎建設穩健，倫敦銀行業職位空缺亦較都柏林和法蘭克福為多，以價值計只有香港（120億）較倫敦優勝。現時，倫敦仍然需要新地標。
Lodha在宣傳lincoln Square時以「精英雲集」為口號。事實上，Lincoln Square是個「地方更新」項目，多於「地方營造」項目。從Lincoln Square出發，信步可達lincoln's Inn Fields、倫敦政治經濟學院、大英博物館、皇家司法院、倫敦國王學院及英國皇家外科學院，以及Facebook、亞馬遜、安永會計師事務所、普華永道、倫敦時報、高盛、谷歌、衛報等企業的辦公室，不得不提的是附近柯芬園、蘇豪、費茲洛維亞及 河畔無可比擬的餐飲、購物和娛樂設施，由Patricia Urquiola和bowler James Brindley等設計名師操刀的優雅設計置於其中。由該處前往其他地方可經Holborn、chancery Lane、temple和covent Garden等鐵路站，交通連接是前所未有的完善。
Lodha英國銷售總監charlie Walsh在談到項目對地區貢獻時稱道：「Lincoln Square是倫敦一個舊區，擁有悠久歷史，附近還有著名學府、法律和文化機構，這是市內其中一個最優越的住宅地段，鄰近市中心和科芬園文化中心。我們十分重視設計，Lincoln Square項目的每個細節都經過周詳考慮，確保融入周圍環境，PLP建築事務所和Gustafson Porter + Bowman（景觀設計事務所）合力把Lincoln Square打造成一個歷久不衰的傑作。」
Lincoln Square的地理位置深受專業人士歡迎，在項目完成前12個月，221個單位已售出一半，對投資者而言，來自科技、金融、教育界的租客數量十分多，是個可觀的投資。Lodha預計lincoln Square開放式
project is seeing a renaissance in interest now that residents are moving in, the iconic locations open to the public and the promise of the scheme is realised. Hongkongers have already taken to TVC: 12% of the purchases so far have come from the SAR, along with 26 other nations. Rental yields are already a respectable 3.5%, and at this point in London's property cycle, it's a smart buy. “This is truly a regeneration area that's delivering on its promises,” notes Stanhope's Allen.
White City is like Lincoln Square in that many of the essential elements for a strong regeneration and long-term investments, such as infrastructure, residences, offices, schools and green spaces, were already there. TVC is trading on the area's rich modern history, chiefly the 1908-14 exposition pavilions' marble cladding and the BBC'S studio legacy. The studio's old terrazzo floor has been repurposed as the residence reception, but the dent left from 50 years of rock ‘n' roll legends standing at the front desk remains. One of the biggest John Lewis stores in the UK is open, and new campuses for Imperial College and The Royal College of Art will soon add another young, progressive edge to White City.
“This is an amazing community—and not something coming. It's there now. A few weeks ago ‘The Avengers: Infinity War' premiere was there. The offices are finished and occupiers are moving in; we have just announced a 212,000 square-foot deal with Publicis advertising group to move 2,000 of their people there to add to The White Company who have relocated their UK HQ from South Kensington to the site; there are 3,000 staff in the BBC; and Soho House, Patty & Bun, Bluebird and Homeslice restaurants are putting the area on the map. It's all coming together.”
Approximately 90 homes remain available at Television Centre, including 24 premium penthouses still in the planning stage. Prices range from £645,000 to £8 million (HK$6.9 to $85 million). Lincoln Square is offering just under half of its total 221 apartments, with prices beginning at £1.29 million (HK$13.5 million). For details refer to televisioncentre. com and lincolnsquare.co.uk.
活力之都有別於適合律師等傳統專業人士居住的Lincoln Square，television Centre位於繁華的White City活化區內，項目以英國廣播公司大樓（排列成問號形的建築結構）為中心，如今陸續有住戶遷入，越來越多人對這項目感興趣。這個新地標開放給公眾使用，實踐了當初承諾。香港人早已投資在Television Centre，現時買家中有12%來自香港，其他買家來自另外26個國家。Television Centre的租金回報已達3.5%，以目前倫敦市況去看，是一項明智的投資。Stanhope的Allen提到：「這是個完全活化的地區，兌現了當初的發展承諾。」
White City與lincoln Square一樣，早已擁有許多具潛力大規模活化和長遠投資的要素，例如基礎設施、住宅、寫字樓、學校和綠化空間，Television Centre更強調其豐富的現代歷史，主要是1908-14年間博覽會展館遺留下來的大理石建築，以及英國廣播公司的製作中心。製作中心的舊水磨石地板現已改成住宅的接待處，但50年來由搖滾樂傳奇人物留下的痕跡依然清晰可見。現時，英國其中一家最大的John Lewis百貨公司已在該區開業，倫敦帝國學院和皇家藝術學院的新校園快將啟用，為White City增添年青的魄力及朝氣。
「這區十分奇妙，並不是個新興地方，而是個發展完善的社區。數星期前，《復仇者聯盟：無限之戰》就在這裡舉行首映禮；寫字樓大廈已落成，陸續有公司遷入，The White Company已將他們位於南肯辛頓的英國總部搬到這裡來，我們又剛與Publicis廣告集團達成協議，該公司的2,000名員工將遷到212,000平方呎的寫字樓內，英國廣播公司亦有3,000名員工在這裡；Soho House、patty & Bun、bluebird及Homeslice餐廳令這區聲名大噪。各樣事物聚在一起便成了現在的模樣。」
Television Centre尚有約90個單位出售，包括24個尚在規劃階段的豪華頂層單位，售價由645,000鎊至800萬鎊（即690至8,500萬港元）不等。Lincoln Square總共有221個單位，現時餘下不足半數單位發售，售價由129萬鎊（即1,350萬港元）起。詳情請瀏覽televisioncentre.com及lincolnsquare. co.uk.