The 10-year wait for London’s newest railway line has often felt interminable, given the amount of hoopla and controversy it has attracted. When it finally launches next year, the Elizabeth Line will cut an east-to-west swathe across central London, easing rush-hour congestion and passage through the capital. The huge project (originally expected to cost £14.8bn, but now running £600m over budget and almost a year late), which most Londoners refer to by its working title of Crossrail, has had a well-documented impact on property prices around its suburban stations. It has also diverted billions of pounds of investment towards central London locations once considered lacklustre, from north Mayfair to the increasingly desirable City fringes.
“Crossrail has been a massive catalyst for development,” says Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of the New West End Company, which represents businesses and landowners in the area. “There have been two million sq m of new residential and commercial spaces built around Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road in the past five years. What this means is that we are starting to see more residential pockets in the commercial core of the West End – good news because we want a mixed community.”
The area around Bond Street station is Crossrail’s most upscale residential option. But, by the standards of prime central London, the streets just south of Oxford Street have never been considered quite premier league. Tim Macpherson, head of London residential sales at Carter Jonas, believes Crossrail is beginning to change this. “Duke Street has been smartened up and seen new boutique-style shops opening,” he says. “In fact, there has been a regeneration of all those little streets around Bond Street in anticipation of increased footfall. Crossrail will certainly move north Mayfair up the scale.”
Nowhere is this clearer than on Hanover Square (Mayfair’s oldest), which has been particularly badly disrupted by the building of the new line. The payoff is that it will have its own entrance to Bond Street station – and the most luxurious of central London’s Crossrail-inspired developments. Hanover Bond – designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners – will include 80 residences affiliated with a new 50-room Mandarin Oriental hotel, which is due for completion in 2021. Buyers will benefit from the amenities they have come to expect of a branded hotel-apartment building: a communal private lounge, a 25m swimming pool with use of a spa and gym, room service, housekeeping and access to the hotel’s bars and restaurants. Prices start at £1,999,000 for a studio and the final penthouse is available for £24.95m – or around £86,000 per sq m. The other penthouse sold for the same amount per sq m, setting a record for this part of Mayfair.
For those who prefer homes with a little history and a lot of pizzazz, Greybrook House – the art deco former Bechstein piano showroom just down the road from Claridge’s on Brook Street – is another option. The building has been converted into four apartments, and Knight Frank and Wetherell are jointly offering the penthouse in the Grade II-listed landmark for £25m. The five-bedroom duplex has a roof garden that’s just begging to be used as a party space, and the property won top honours in the residential design over £1m category in this year’s Society of British and International Interior Design (SBID) awards.
Tottenham Court Road sits on the rather dismal eastern end of Oxford Street, but its landmark glass station entrance (opened in 2015), piazza space and massive investment could change that. The highest profile transformation in the area is the lavish reboot of Richard Seifert’s 1966 brutalist tower block beside the station, which will be transformed into 82 apartments, alongside a pool, health suite and business lounge, while its new public square will offer restaurants, cafés and shops. “Centre Point is definitely the one to watch here,” says Jack Ballantine, director of residential development and investment at UK Sotheby’s International Realty. “The tower is located at the less established end of Oxford Street and, once complete, is expected to bring a sense of luxury and prestige to the surrounding area.” A three-bedroom home on the upper floors of Centre Point Residences – with 180-degree views of London – is currently listed with Knight Frank for £7,675,000.
Adjacent Denmark Street, nicknamed “Tin Pan Alley” in its heyday and once full of small recording studios and music shops, is having a facelift of its own after years of steady decline. Renamed St Giles Circus, in 2017 it became the site for construction of a mixed-use development, which will include a hotel, sky bar, piazza and 2,000-seat music venue that is expected to open in 2020. Work on a separate 26,500sq m mixed-use scheme on the corner of Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road also began this year, adding a new theatre, offices and shops to the mix.
Whether these new homes and improved facilities will continue to keep Crossrail locations’ prices surging in the current subdued property climate is a moot point. They have already enjoyed a decade of outperformance. Prices around Bond Street, for example, leapt almost 210 per cent in the past decade, to an average of just over £3m, according to Savills.
Moving slightly further along the Elizabeth Line, homes around both Paddington and Liverpool Street stations are expected to see a price growth of 12 per cent from 2018 to 2022, according to an exclusive forecast by JLL, as new developments and increasing “trendification” raise their popularity. Farringdon, for similar reasons, is predicted to see growth of 11 per cent. Paddington, in particular, has experienced a tremendous amount of development over the past decade, mostly around Paddington Basin – an offshoot of the Regent’s Canal just north of the station. One of the biggest schemes here is European Land’s £750m Merchant Square, comprising 11 acres of homes, offices and amenities. At No 3 Canalside Walk, a relatively intimate development of 84 waterfront apartments, prices start at £850,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, rising to £1.2m for two and £1.6m for three, while residents benefit from a rooftop lounge and gym and are just two minutes’ walk from the station.
The birth of the Paddington Basin as a destination has not, however, coincided with an upgrade of the streets closer to the station. They remain a depressing mix of tourist tat and basic restaurants. This part of Paddington is less likely to see prices outperform, according to Dylan James, director at the Hyde Park office of Chestertons estate agents. He observes that in the aftermath of Brexit and recent tax changes, prices in the W2 area have dropped and, since Paddington already has great transport links, he doubts Crossrail will make a huge difference.”
Farringdon – an area blessed with an interesting mix of good restaurants, bars and cafés – could be a better investment option. It is is already in the throes of a building boom. Developer Helical’s work on Barts Square, a £165m reboot of buildings that were formerly part of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, is well underway. Its first phase is almost sold out (just 10 properties remain out of 144) and around a quarter of the second phase of homes, launched in March, have also been sold. Prices range from £770,000 for a studio apartment to £4.5m for a penthouse (three-bedroom apartment in The Levett Building, £4.1m), and residents have access to a private screening room, meeting room, bar, lounge and gardens. There will also be shops and public bars and restaurants on the site.
This month, the first of 681 new homes at Postmark London – a new development on the site of the Royal Mail’s 6.25-acre Mount Pleasant depot on Farringdon Road – went on sale. Residents will share a cinema, lounge, roof terrace and gym, with the first homes ready to move into in 2020 and prices expected to start at £670,000. “Ten years ago, if someone asked if you would spend £1m-plus on an apartment in Farringdon, you might have thought they were joking,” says Camilla Dell, managing partner and founder of Black Brick Property Solutions, who points to the demand from City workers who like the area’s mix of edgy nightlife and convenience.
Square Mile executives are also a focus in Liverpool Street, where Malaysian developer AlloyMtd is spending £500m on One Crown Place. The mixed scheme includes 246 apartments distributed between two towers, which are on sale with CBRE Residential priced from £867,000 to £7.5m and are complemented by a terrace of renovated Georgian townhouses that will accommodate a private members’ club, boutique hotel and destination restaurant and bar. The homes will be ready to move into at the end of 2020.
But for Bernard Cully, investment sales director at JLL, the most obvious symbol of Liverpool Street’s property evolution is Principal Tower – a 50-floor skyscraper by Foster + Partners and the City’s answer to The Shard. Homes here have curved balconies and the views are very much the star attraction – the architects have used pale wood, white marble and bronze detailing so as not to detract from the vista. JLL is currently selling a two-bedroom apartment within the tower for £1.35m.
Cully says early buyers at Principal Tower were investors from the UK and overseas, but, as its 2020/21 completion date looms closer and Crossrail services get underway, more owner-occupiers are expected to sign up too. He imagines these buyers will be an interestingly varied demographic. “There are all the guys who have set up tech businesses around Old Street and, of course, people who work at Amazon – its offices are close by – and there will be a large number of bankers,” he says. “We also expect to see parents buying property for international students. One thing is for sure, the city is diversifying…”