Homes with central perks
The Independent

Homes with central perks

It’s known for its tired shops and traffic gridlock, but a new masterplan is bringing hundreds of smart apartments to Oxford Street. David Spittles reports.

Five years from now Oxford Street will have been transformed into a boulevard to rival Paris’s Champs Elysées or Fifth Avenue in New York. That’s the brave promise of the New West End Company (NWEC), which has just unveiled its masterplan.

This tired and shabby shopping street appears to have a much more elegant future, tree-lined and pedestrianised, a friendly place adorned with public art. It will be a coveted residential address, too. There will still be plenty of shops, but of better quality than today and they’ll be joined by smart new offices.

Oxford Street can claim to be Europe’s busiest retail destination but the NWEC, an umbrella group of retailers and influential property owners backed by Mayor Boris Johnson and Westminster Council, knows its undoubted popularity is often undeserved.

New “gateways” are planned for Marble Arch, Tottenham Court Road, Bond Street and Langham Place, and there will be side-street “oases” for alfresco dining and boutique shopping. Because Oxford Street is a spine road connecting Mayfair and Marylebone, Soho and Fitzrovia, there are development ripples into these areas too.

Projects are being spurred by Crossrail stations being built at Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road. Park House, a capsule-like glass structure that includes 39 apartments with their own entrance in quiet North Row in Mayfair, occupies an entire city block and is the biggest Oxford Street redevelopment for 60 years. For fashion retailer Zara, the shop will be its biggest branch worldwide.

Apartments (ranging from 1,000-4,800 sq ft) will be ready early next year and will be let rather than sold from £900 per week. Residents will have Selfridges as their corner shop, points out developer Land Securities, which is also working up plans for a £200m 90-home scheme at the opposite end of Oxford Street, close to Tottenham Court Road station. “It’s an internationally recognised Monopoly Board address and without doubt there is an appetite for homes,” says Tom Eshelby, director of Land Securities.

The Government is to formalise the masterplan as the UK’s first Business Improvement District, where financial contributions from local landlords are compulsory. This will provide the needed cash injection for area upgrades.

Richard Dickinson, managing director of the NWEC, says the first wave of regeneration will be around Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road and the tatty east end of Oxford Street.

The new Bond Street station is part of a 1.3-acre development project bringing homes and 300,000sq ft of mixed-use space above a ticket hall on Hanover Square. Another scheme involving property companyGrosvenor Estates is planned for the western exit on Davies Street, Mayfair.

Verge Mayfair is a scheme of 10 loft-style apartments carved from a former office block where Oxford Street meets New Bond Street. Prices from £1.65m.

Five dual-aspect apartments, one per floor, are part of a new mixed-use development at 5 Hanover Square. Squire and Partners, the architect, have drawn on the square’s historic mix of Georgian and postwar buildings to create a design that slots tidily into the streetscape.

The Crossrail station opening in 2017 at Tottenham Court Road will have a huge impact, transforming the scruffy patch around listed Centre Point, whose new owner, Almacantar, is proposing to build 82 luxury flats. This dovetails with the NWEC’s strategy to switch the retail emphasis on Tottenham Court Road away from electrical stores to a major homeware hub.

This eastern stretch of Oxford Street butts against Soho. In Victorian times, Henry Heath was one of London’s best-known hatters and his customers used to visit his shop via the stately Beaver Building on Oxford Street. The surviving buildings, renamed The Hat Factory, have been converted into eight loft apartments. Prices from £1.5m.

If iconic Centre Point is one Oxford Street bookend, the other is Marble Arch Tower, at the westernmost end. This site, which includes an Odeon Cinema, is also owned by Almacantar, which has commissioned Rafael Vinoly to design a 250,000 sq ft redevelopment to include 60 luxury homes.

Great Cumberland Place, running from Oxford Street to Bryanston Square, has auspicious Victorian terraces which are getting a facelift.

A tasteful refurbishment by developer Galliard has brought six new apartments. Prices from £1.5m. The same developer is creating luxury residences in a grand Edwardian mansion on Portland Place, close to Oxford Circus.

Properties in the West End heartland can be cheaper than homes in central London’s established residential addresses, with prices starting from about £500,000. West End homes appeal particularly to creative-sector entrepreneurs who like to mix business with pleasure. But downsizers moving from outside the capital are also snapping up apartments to enjoy London life.