living in London
Well, that’s surprising. Since 2016, according to Faisal Durrani of property consultants Cluttons, the top three London boroughs for HNWI Middle Eastern clients included the predictable Kensington/Chelsea and Westminister. Sandwiched between those two, however, was Canary Wharf. That’s quite unusual; while it is a business dynamo, Canary Wharf is not the sort of prestige London address that appeals to that demographic, skewing younger, modern and – dare we say – trendier.
There are two stories here. One is that new luxury residential offerings in prime central London is supply constrained, which pushes development into new areas; the other is that the demographics of those investing in high-end London real estate is also evolving. Even with the uncertainty of Brexit looming on the horizon, London will remain a global powerhouse; everybody still wants to be here, work here and live here. So the luxury residential market has to evolve with the emergence of new areas and new money, exploring new frontiers. In particular, Taylor Wimpey Central London (TWCL), part of the larger Taylor Wimpey development group, has put itself in a position to exploit those the twin trends in London.
Palace View, south of the river in Lambeth, encapsulates what TWCL is trying to achieve. Consisting of 55 apartments, ranging from 1- to 3-bedroom units, the nine level building may be brand new but it slots into the area smoothly – the brick façade picks out the exterior of neighbouring buildings, while copper accents blend in colourwise. From the residents’ roof terrace, the views are spectacular – overlooking Lambeth Palace (the official London residence of the Archbishop of Cantenbury), the Thames and the iconic Palace of Westminster beyond. It isn’t exactly on the Thames – just a block away – and that defines the TWCL approach.
Darren McCormack, TWCL’s Sales and Marketing Director, describes this as the difference between an AAA and an AAB location. Rather than developing the saturated, competitive and limited AAA market, TWCL is looking at AAB areas – then imbuing them with AAA quality. “We are quite picky about where we develop in Central London,” he says in TWCL’s gleaming offices just off Piccadilly Circus where miniature models of the developments he oversees dot the foyer. “It has to make sense. We don’t want to be just another luxury development in ‘golden postcode’. We also want to be part of the local community, to integrate our properties and not remain aloof.”
The Music Box is a great example of this, a striking collection of 41 apartments. The lower floors of the building are state-of-the-art home to London Centre of Creative Media and London Centre of Contemporary Music, with the residential ‘box’ cantilevered dramatically above. Surrounded by neighbourhood pubs, Southwark rail station and a vibrant community, The Music Box also lies just a 4-minute walk away from the Tate Modern and the Thames. Designed by architect Trevor Morris of SPPARC, the vertical white enamel panels between glass windows not only create the illusion of towering height from the outside, but also frame beautiful views of the London. There’s also an additional symbiotic connection; the interspaced enamel-glass design on the exterior is meant to evoke piano keys, while glazed bricks on the entrance facade are arranged match the Cream song ‘White Room’. Inside the apartments themselves, the generous space is a perfect canvas for high-end living, while the oh-so-slight distance from the Thames makes its prices oh-so-slightly-friendlier.
This theme continues over TWCL’s other properties – Westminister Quarter in Westminister, Battersea Exchange in Battersea, Ebury Place in Pimlico and The Denizen in EC1. The Battersea Exchange development, for example, also encompasses a new home for St. Mary’s Catholic primary school (including a double-storey playground slide), part of a plan to revitalise an area that lost a little sparkle. Ebury Place presented a rare opportunity for a luxury new build in historical Pimlico, sitting adjacent to the Sir Simon Milton Westminster University Technical College. Projects like The Denizen also require TWCL to contribute off-site affordable housing as part of planning permission granted by local councils, which addresses London’s housing deficit. And to maintain a sense of cohesion, TWCL’s properties are offered for sale in the UK first, before being expanded overseas. This ensures that it can put British needs first, while also capitalising on the larger international owner-occupier and buy-to-let interest in its properties, particularly from Asia and the Middle East.
Then there are times when TWCL’s approach places them in the middle of an urban zeitgeist. In Dalston, the cladding on FiftySevenEast has just come off. Dalston is the new Hoxton, just as Hoxton was the new Shoreditch; but before all that, this part of the East End was grim, which street artist Banksy captured the bleak atmosphere with his stencils. Gentrification, however, has brought wealth and buzz to Dalston, but the area still manages to retain some of its urban edge. So it seems fitting that FiftySevenEast – in its eye-catching curved bronze tower housing 83 apartments – sits equidistance from a Nigerian butcher and a cutting-edge fashion boutique. A splash graffitti artwork adorns the wall at the property’s entrance, ensuring that a little bit of authentic Dalston remains in FiftySevenEast. Upstairs, the apartments are ample and lavish, with two fifth floor units blessed with large outdoor terraces while those in the tower suites have wraparound balconies with uninterrupted views of London.
What Dalston is destined to be is what King’s Cross is now. Once dingy and forbidding, King’s Cross has been redeveloped into a marvellous area on both banks of the Regent’s Canal Towpath, quivering with energy as the site of arts powerhouse Central St. Martins, Google’s current (and future) London headquarters and the wonderfully restored German Gymnasium restaurant. Perched just on the edge of the regeneration area is TWCL’s Onyx Apartments, which will overlook all this buzz when completed later this year. Offering 117 1- to 3-bedroom apartments, Onyx is a grand proposition in a part of London that many – especially the young and affluent – want to live in. Who wouldn’t want to? Modern King’s Cross has a magnetic lifestyle appeal, unrecognisable from what it once was two decades ago. But that’s London.
In a city constantly in flux, choosing to focus on the next big thing and to aim for integration is a smart move. By developing properties that strategically sit within close radius of London’s established and upcoming hotspots, while cleaving well to their surrounding mould, TWCL has hit upon a winning strategy