Property

White City Looks To Its History To Create Its Future

White City Looks To Its History To Create Its FutureLondon’s regeneration boom is well documented for good reason. City councils and developers in the residence-strapped UK capital have been forced to get creative and that creativity has been a boon to the cityscape. The newest re-imaginings and rejuvenations in spots as diverse as Battersea and Colindale have only increased demand for chic new homes. In the latest such project, Television Centre by Stanhope, the past becomes a perfect complement to the future.

Re-Making History
Technically in Hammersmith & Fulham, White City is famous for being the home of the BBC’s headquarters and perhaps as the childhood stomping grounds of The Who’s Pete Townshend (who named his 1985 album after it). “The site of White City’s got a lot of history to it. It was the home of the Olympics in 1908, but it was also the site of probably the greatest ever exhibition, the Franco-British showcase of everything that was great at that time, the innovations that came out of Europe,” explains Alistair Shaw, Stanhope’s managing director for Television Centre. The neighbourhood derives its name from the 120 white marble-fronted villas built at the time, and it also gave birth to the first ever 26.2-mille Olympic marathon and hosted several World Cup matches in 1966. The Beeb moved into the then-state-of-the-art studios designed by architect Graham Dawbarn in 1960, which was quickly dubbed the Question Mark for its curving shape. Studio One is here, which over its life produced some of the most popular television programming in the world.

Now, Television Centre is the anchor of an £8 billion, 14-acre regeneration that, “Isn’t just about Television Centre; it’s about a much bigger project and White City itself,” notes Shaw. Already underway, the ambitious project covering 150 acres overall will ultimately feature Stanhope’s 432 residences, both new construction (270 units) and within the historic Helios building — the Question Mark — as well as 1,500 Berkeley St James residences, a Soho House boutique hotel, a campus of Imperial College, offices, restaurants, leisure facilities, retail (existing Australian retailer Westfield is expanding to include a John Lewis store), and open spaces and parkland. Best of all, BBC studios and offices for the broadcaster’s flagship BBC Worldwide will remain.

TVC’s Helios building will feature flats ranging from studios to three-bedroom homes, complemented by amenities like a lounge, gym, spa, cinema and meeting rooms, surrounding a landscaped forecourt. The newly built outer structure will face Hammersmith Park and its 1910 Japanese garden, with inner units facing the residents’ garden. Green spaces will play a big part in TVC’s overall design and final feel. Shaw: “Of the 150 acres, 30 are public green space. You don’t get that in the central areas, it’s very urban, and it’s very noisy. [TVC] is very tranquil for residents — we are right next to Hammersmith Park — and I think that means a lot to people.”

Contemporary Investment
White City is a district that has room to grow, hence its appeal for overseas investors. Prices at TVC are expected to hover between £1,000 and £1,300 per square foot, which is roughly half the price of properties in neighbouring Holland Park or Notting Hill. “There should be decent growth from there. Battersea started at £1,000 and they’re at £1,700 now, and I think this bit of west London is a stronger growth story, mainly because it is a very established area and there are excellent transport links.

“We’re trying to appeal to office occupiers and residential buyers who are kind of in touch with media, advertising, publishing, creative industries. I keep explaining how complex the scheme is. It’s not just about the residents,” stresses Shaw, noting 5,000 office workers, visitors to the studio and the four-screen cinema, as a start, are going to give White City and Television Centre a new personality. “We’re going to be hosting a lot of events because we’ve got fantastic spaces. Culture is at the heart of the project.”

Shaw expects office rents to be competitive with nearby in Soho and appeal to modern industries, and the area’s scarcity of rental stock should put units at TVC in demand. All the chatter in London right now is about Crossrail and its impact on property, but White City is already well connected. Just west of Hyde Park and Kensington Palace and not too far from Notting Hill, the Central Line and four nearby Tube stations head directly to the rest of London. As a destination, Shaw is confident White City compares favourably to other more high profile history-heavy projects, like Battersea/Nine Elms and King’s Cross. “We’re retaining a lot of the listed elements of Television Centre, including the famous lobby, which the BBC called ‘The Stage Door’ and was where anyone who was anyone in the world from the 1960s to the present day — from the Queen, visiting Prime Ministers, celebrities, musicians, film and TV stars — came through, to some of the television studios and many of the building’s features,” finishes Shaw. It’s hard to beat The Queen.

Television Centre is scheduled for rolling completion in 2017 and 2018. Prices start at approximately £650,000 (HK$8 million). For more information contact Savills in the UK or Strutt & Parker.