CITY PADS HIT THE SPOT

Love it or hate it, the Bar­bican is still where buy­ers want to be, says Ch­eryl Markosky

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Property -

With mort­gage lenders im­pos­ing stricter terms for those want­ing to buy ur­ban apart­ments – typ­i­cally only 75 per cent loan-to-value mortgages, com­pared with 90 per cent for houses – you would be for­given for think­ing this could spell the end for city pied-à-ter­res. But some ur­ban bolt-holes are manag­ing to hold their own. De­spite a glut of un­sold flats else­where (notably some north­ern cities where val­ues have been halved), one place that is weath­er­ing the storm is the Bar­bican in the City of Lon­don. This mod­ernist es­tate does have what might be de­scribed as the Mar­mite fac­tor – you ei­ther love or hate the un­com­pro­mis­ing con­crete ar­chi­tec­ture – but there is a con­stant de­mand from Bar­bican fans happy to pay for th­ese Six­ties homes. The prob­lem is that it is not easy for ad­mir­ers to get their hands on them, as the es­tate com­prises only a cou­ple of thou­sand flats, which change hands in­fre­quently. All of which makes the re­cent ar­rival on the mar­ket of 69 apart­ments – stu­dios, one-, two-and three­bed­room – in the es­tate’s Fro­bisher Cres­cent very wel­come news. For­merly the home of the City Uni­ver­sity busi­ness school, per­mis­sion was granted to con­vert offices in this Grade II listed block into new homes. Fif­teen apart­ments have al­ready sold and view­ing is brisk, says Antony Crov­ella, sales and mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor for United House De­vel­op­ments, which car­ried out the con­ver­sion. Such metropoli­tan gems do not come cheap, how­ever. Ex­pect to pay £380,000 for a stu­dio with a flip-down bed, and up to £1.87mil­lion for a three-bed­room du­plex. But some Bar­bican res­i­dents are not put off by the high sums and are trad­ing in their cur­rent flats for th­ese newly-re­stored ver­sions. “Al­though there was a lot of ne­go­ti­at­ing with English Her­itage, broadly we have been able to achieve what we wanted in­ter­nally,” Crov­ella says. The end re­sult echoes the orig­i­nal aes­thetic, and money has cer­tainly been ex­pended, with re­claimed hard­wood smoked oak floors, spe­cially com­mis­sioned door fur­ni­ture to match the much-cov­eted brushed steel orig­i­nals, re­fur­bished win­dows and glossy new bath­rooms. Gemma Fowler, a 34-year-old MBA stu­dent at the Uni­ver­sity of Winch­ester and an ar­dent fan of the Bar­bican, has bought a three-bed­room apart­ment for just over £1mil­lion with the rest of her fam­ily. Gemma, to­gether with her mother Ann, step­fa­ther John and brother Ben, 22, will use this as her Lon­don base. “It is cen­tral, iconic and a great cen­tral point where we can all gather,” Gemma ex­plains. “In the cur­rent eco­nomic cli­mate, prop­erty is as good an in­vest­ment as any and the Bar­bican is al­ways spec­tac­u­lar when it comes to rental re­turns.” Cur­rently, weekly rents range from about £185-£370 for a stu­dio, £350£595 for a one-bed­room apart­ment, £400-£475 for two bed­rooms, and £525-£645 for a three-bed­room apart­ment.

Lon­don call­ing: Fro­bisher Cres­cent of­fers the rare chance to buy a flat at the Bar­bican, some­thing Gemma Fowler, above right, has taken ad­van­tage of

Gemma, like many buy­ers of Bar­bican homes, has a strong affin­ity with the Square Mile’s most fa­mous neigh­bour­hood. “My mum was born in Bow and my grand­fa­ther went to school in Lamb’s Pas­sage. I went to the City of Lon­don School for Girls for eight years and my brother went to the City of Lon­don School. As a fam­ily, we have al­ways had strong links here.” The Fowlers’ apart­ment will be ready in March and Gemma in­sists: “We will all be here to cel­e­brate Christ­mas 2010. I’m over­joyed we have bought our fan­tasy in con­crete, as this is the only place I feel I

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