King’s Cross is the gift that keeps on giving. The multi-billion pound, 27-hectare redevelopment and regeneration of one of London’s most iconic — and with the hub status of King’s Cross and St Pancras International rail stations one of its busiest and buzziest — districts. So buzzy in fact that it has its own postcode — the new N1C. Even with construction sites on every corner, the streets are crowded with people from all over the world coming and going to St Pancras. And a stop at one of the earliest restaurants to operate reveals a classic slice of London: seated side by side at the Caravan bistro are blue-suited business pros, blue-haired (more aquamarine actually) art students and geeky engineering types. Everyone, after all, enjoys a charcuterie platter.
300 Years In The Making
Take a walk through the King’s Cross area now and you’d never know that between the Second World War and just a few years ago — the project began in the mid-2000s — the area was an urban wasteland. Known as Battlebridge in the mid-1700s, King’s Cross was something of a way station to the north, then, as the Victorian gasholders indicate, the so-called dirty industries (coke and gas storage, paint factories and so on) moved in and it went industrial. It’s not surprising St Pancras is one of the UK’s preferred routes to Europe as the old Midland Goods Shed was once a passenger terminal. King’s Cross had been slated for redevelopment more than once in the past, but the rise in its profile with the opening of the Eurostar terminus could have been the final push the city needed; tourists don’t like arriving in ghettos.
King’s Cross certainly isn’t the only urban renewal project unfolding in London, something the city does better than anyone else in the world. Nine Elms and the Battersea Power Station on the south side of the river and the area around Elephant & Castle and the mini-Silicon Valley springing up not too far from there are just a few of the more prominent mega-projects that come to mind. But King’s Cross’s deliberate, organic and ambitious plan has attracted notice as the place to be, both architecturally and socially; the new and the old connect seamlessly. The office tenants that have already committed to King’s Cross are diverse, keeping the district from being a one-note neighbourhood — a banking district, a publishing district, tech alley. Employers that are going to draw thousands of professionals to the area already include Google (one million square feet in five buildings), Central Saint Martins college of art and design, a campus of London’s University of the Arts that moved into the Granary Building, BNP Paribas, Louis Vuitton, government agencies and food retailer Waitrose, moving a superstore into the aforementioned goods shed, a heritage site.
When complete sometime around 2020, King’s Cross could be one of London’s most liveable neighbourhoods, and will have added 10 new squares, three new bridges, 20 new streets, a primary school and 2,000 new homes (44 percent of which is social housing in the form of student, elderly and assisted housing) to London’s cityscape, incorporating 20 existing heritage buildings. Old, cobbled coal drops are being converted into a corridor dedicated to independent retailers and cafés, the Great Northern Hotel has been restored and one of four Victorian gasholders will be used for open space. The other three (the Siamese triplets) will become the outside framework of what could be some of the coolest flats in the world. Stay tuned.
Latest Not Least
As what is considered “central London” continues to expand, spots like King’s Cross shed their images as “far away” or outside of the city’s prime activity and action. King’s Cross’s primary developer Argent has been releasing properties for sale in steady phases without ever flooding the market — or leaving too long in between launches, and judging by the across the board success, many purchasers would agree that King’s Cross is indeed in the heart of the city. It’s connected by a cluster of a whopping six Tube lines (it may take a while but the Piccadilly Line goes direct to Heathrow), with Euston Station also within walking distance.
First out of the gate was Arthouse, now sold out, completed and fully occupied. Second was the Tapestry building, which is now under construction and when finished will be a step up from Arthouse’s contemporary cool. The Plimsoll Building is the third and newest residential phase for sale, ready to hit the market in mid-March.
Located on Regent’s Canal beside Tapestry and Gasholder No 8, when Plimsoll is completed in 2015 it will comprise 178 flats in two towers, with the first block, dubbed Freshwater, featuring studios, one-, two- and three-bed apartments, including penthouses and duplexes. Designed by David Morley Architects, most suites have a balcony, terrace or both. Among the building’s amenities are 24-hour concierge service, private dining space, a business lounge and event space, gym and a cloister overlooking the garden and leading to the second tower (Summer).
Prices at King’s Cross are appreciating, currently sitting at approximately £1,200 per square foot, a bargain by London standards that also hints at strong rental yields, with the King’s Cross area outperforming nearby hipster locations Islington and Camden by around 11 percent. According to Ashley Osborne, executive director of Colliers International in Hong Kong, price growth in London over the last four years has averaged 25 percent. He expects modest growth in 2014 before the market picks up again in 2015 and beyond. Prices at the Plimsoll Building’s Freshwater begin at approximately £420,000 (HK$5.4 million).