The West End at your feet

A £20bn re­birth brings new homes back to W1

Evening Standard - West End Final Extra - ES Homes and Property - - Front Page -

THE West End is in the throes of a huge makeover that in­cludes a long- awaited ren­o­va­tion pro­gramme. The district stretch­ing from Covent Gar­den to Mar­ble Arch is re­cap­tur­ing the res­i­den­tial allure it lost to com­merce, with £20 bil­lion of im­prove­ments. As with so many Lon­don ar­eas, Cross­rail, sched­uled to open next year, has been the ma­jor cat­a­lyst.

New sta­tions at Tot­ten­ham Court Road and Bond Street are spark­ing a wave of cleanly cu­rated flats along with new of­fices, shops, pedes­trian-friendly plazas and pub­lic spa­ces.

For the first time since the Blitz, the bright lights of Pic­cadilly Cir­cus have fallen dark. This au­tumn a £30 mil­lion state-of-the-art curved screen will fea­ture live video streaming, with weather re­ports, sports, news — and one spec­tac­u­lar ad­ver­tise­ment at a time.

His­tor­i­cally, the West End was built as a se­ries of palaces, ex­pen­sive town­houses, the­atres and fash­ion­able ar­cades. The aris­toc­racy fled dur­ing the Sec­ond World War and it turned into a com­mer­cial district with rel­a­tively few res­i­dents. The cur­rent re­vival is en­cour­aged by a de­mand for Zone 1 liv­ing from Lon­don­ers keen to en­joy city life, but re­luc­tant to com­mute.

De­pend­ing on the ex­act lo­ca­tion, West End homes can be cheaper than those in cen­tral Lon­don’s more es­tab­lished res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hoods such as Chelsea and Kens­ing­ton, start­ing just be­low £500,000. The area has al­ways ap­pealed to cre­atives such as film and fash­ion ex­ec­u­tives and young en­trepreneurs, who like the lively vibe of this stim­u­lat­ing area. But more sur­pris­ingly, down­siz­ers from the coun­try are mov­ing in for their share of the ac­tion promised by the­atres and new restau­rants. De­signer flats are spring­ing up in un­likely pock­ets, in­clud­ing the Soho back­streets.

FLATS IN BLUE PLAQUE STREETS

Tour guides point out Great New­port Street and the blue plaque prop­erty where artist Joshua Reynolds lived be­tween 1753 and 1761, along with the “po­lice­man’s coat hook”, a cu­ri­ous relic used in ages past by traf­fic of­fi­cers to hang up their capes. The Colyer is a new scheme of 14 flats set be­hind two hand­some Vic­to­rian build­ings that were of­fices. John Robert­son Ar­chi­tects faced the chal­lenge in this con­ser­va­tion area of cre­at­ing a spec­tac­u­lar glazed pent­house. The so­lu­tion was a vari­a­tion of the tra­di­tional Mansard roof, with 32 ver­ti­cal brise-soleil pan­els that con­ceal the glaz­ing from street level. From £950,000 to £3.75 mil­lion. Call CBRE on 020 7420 3050.

War­dour Lofts com­prises four twobed­room flats carved from a for­mer print­works. These homes recre­ate a “lived-in” look, with ro­bust but warm, earthy in­dus­trial fea­tures such as steel gird­ers, ex­posed brick walls, re­claimed oak floors and vaulted ceil­ings. From £2,195,000. Call CBRE (as be­fore).

Com­ing soon is Roy­alty Mews, a cob­bled re­treat tucked away off Dean Street, where an in­tri­cate metal art in­stal­la­tion her­alds the en­trance and dou­bles as a be­spoke ex­ter­nal stair­way to four ex­quis­ite flats set be­hind a cool matt black brick ex­te­rior.

HEIGHT OF FASH­ION

For­mer fash­ion­able ad­dresses in St James’s are also back in vogue. In­spired by Jermyn Street’s tra­di­tion of be­spoke Bri­tish tai­lor­ing and fash­ion brands, Beau House, named af­ter Re­gency dandy Beau Brum­mell, of­fers flats with in­te­ri­ors that boast bronze and leather fin­ishes, fine cab­i­netry and mar­ble. From £2 mil­lion. Call 020 7240 2255.

In Re­gent Street The Crown Es­tate has spent years care­fully restor­ing its pre­cious Nash ar­chi­tec­ture. Now it is work­ing on the bland side streets ei­ther side of Haymarket, cur­rently dom­i­nated by sou­venir shops and chain restau­rants. The makeover dove­tails with a ma­jor up­grade of Le­ices­ter Square and aims to cre­ate smarter shops with apart­ments above.

The Corinthia Res­i­dences have been cre­ated at the top of a deluxe ho­tel, mo­ments from Trafal­gar Square. The aus­pi­cious ad­dress was once the Min­istry of Works. From £7.95 mil­lion. Call 020 7861 1740.

Other big lo­cal landown­ers such as Shaftes­bury, Der­went, Capco and The Mercers’ Com­pany are work­ing with lo­cal au­thor­ity plan­ners to cre­ate mi­cro zones of bou­tique hous­ing and shops. Rath­bone Square, Fitzrovia, re­places an ugly postal de­pot and cre­ates a new pedes­trian route through the site plus sub­stan­tial pub­lic space. Its two L-shaped build­ings have 142 homes, of­fices and shops that gel with the sur­round­ing net­work of 18th-cen­tury streets. Face­book is open­ing its Euro­pean HQ there.

Even Ox­ford Street, so in­deli­bly linked with shop­ping, is be­com­ing a place to live. New West End Com­pany, an um­brella group of busi­ness and prop­erty own­ers backed by Westminster coun­cil, has de­vised a £1.5 bil­lion mas­ter­plan to trans­form the bustling thor­ough­fare into a clean, tree-lined,

more pedes­trian-friendly boule­vard adorned with pub­lic art. New “gate­ways” are planned for Mar­ble Arch, Tot­ten­ham Court Road, New Bond Street and Lang­ham Place, and there will be 12 side street “oases” for al­fresco din­ing and bou­tique shop­ping.

Flats are be­ing cre­ated above streetlevel shops. Park House, a cap­sule-like struc­ture op­po­site Sel­fridges, in­cludes high-line apart­ments with their own en­trance on quiet North Row in May­fair. Call Knight Frank on 020 7861 5489. De­vel­oper Land Se­cu­ri­ties is work­ing up plans for a £ 200 mil­lion, 90- home scheme at the op­po­site end of Ox­ford Street, where re­vamped Cen­tre Point, the listed con­crete of­fice tower be­ing con­verted into 82 apart­ments, will be com­pleted this sum­mer.

Back at the west­ern­most end of Ox­ford Street, Mar­ble Arch Tower is to be re­placed by Mar­ble Arch Place, with 54 flats, of­fices, shops and a new Odeon cin­ema. Artist Lee Sim­mons has been com­mis­sioned to cre­ate an in­stal­la­tion for a new civic space. Another 76 flats and a new petrol sta­tion are be­ing built at a linked Edg­ware Road site.

SPRUCING up its en­clave is The Port­man Es­tate, owner of 110 acres — 69 streets with 650 build­ings, four gar­den squares and more than 1,000 homes — im­me­di­ately north of Ox­ford Street. More than £240 mil­lion will be in­vested dur­ing the next six years. A scheme at 62 Sey­mour Street has yielded 10 smart flats and a for­mer police sec­tion house has made way for 24 more.

From £2 mil­lion: above and be­low, Beau House in St James’s, named for Re­gency dandy Beau Brum­mell, apart­ments with high-end in­te­ri­ors. Call 020 7240 2255

Book­end­ing Ox­ford Street: Al­macan­tar’s Mar­ble Arch Place, with flats, of­fices, shops and a cin­ema

From £7.95 mil­lion: The Corinthia Res­i­dences, White­hall Place (020 7861 1740)

£350 mil­lion in­vest­ment: lux­ury flats at the made-over Cen­tre Point tower block, right, in New Ox­ford Street

Bou­tique de­vel­op­ment: Rath­bone Square in Fitzrovia, with flats, of­fices, shops — and Face­book’s new Euro­pean HQ

From £950,000: flats at The Colyer, for­mer of­fices in Great New­port Street, Covent Gar­den

His­toric quar­ter: the Ap­ple Mar­ket, Covent Gar­den, left, at the beat­ing heart of the sweep­ing West End re­vamp

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