Anthology - A New Addition to London’s Developer Landscape

London may be short of housing stock but it certainly has no shortage of developers looking to leave a creative mark on the city. Though affordability can be an issue and residents frequently bemoan the lack of reasonably priced stock in the city centre, there are developers working to address the problem by providing quality, design-forward housing in desirable neighbourhoods without breaking the bank. The latest to do so: Anthology.

Welcome to the Neighbourhoods

Co-founded in 2013 by managing director Mark Dickinson and backed by US-based Oaktree Capital Management, Anthology specialises in London zones 2 to 5 — in districts like Camden, Ealing, Westminster, Lambeth, Southwark and Hammersmith & Fulham among others — and is dedicated to bringing properties to the market in the £600 to £1,200 (HK$5,700 to $11,500) per square foot range.

“We are unashamedly London-proud and London-based. As a company you could say Anthology has a softer approach, in terms of our branding,” begins Dickinson in describing Anthology’s development philosophy. Staffed by real estate veterans, Anthology is hoping to set itself apart through a combination of service, experience and, for lack of a better phrase, common sense.

“We all wanted to get closer to the customers that would eventually be buying our homes. Bigger organisations can be very hierarchical; we’re a bit smaller and lighter on our feet, so we’re that much closer to opportunities for residential development … We don’t have a customer service department because I believe the people responsible for leading the development should take responsibility for the customers afterwards,” Dickinson says. In addition, though marketing makes them seem to be a necessary element, Anthology has largely dispensed with a lot of the excessive bells and whistles — spas, panoramic clubhouse views, infinity pools — so-called luxury developments pride themselves on. In addition, “We don’t have a service charge that’s £7 or £8 per square foot. A lot of Londoners just want to live in a great apartment.”

Anthology is off to a solid start, with its first project, Deptford Foundry, now selling. Two years in planning, the project comprises 315 units in seven towers, ranging between 550 and 800 square feet. Due for completion in 2019, it’s located in an old industrial area and is a mini-regeneration unto itself. Essentially across the river from the Isle of Dogs and 20 minutes from Greenwich, the diverse Deptford area is a creative hub loaded up with trendy pop-up restaurants, markets and galleries. The one- to three-bedroom flats are priced up to £600,000 (HK$5.7 million).

Next on the drawing board is the 195-unit Wembley Parade, a newly acquired 250-flat tower in Tottenham Hale, freshly off to planning (and approximately three years down the road). While hardly disconnected from the heart of London, Anthology is sticking with its zoned plans and playing to its strengths. Beyond Zone 5, Dickinson reasons the only viable projects are houses, which he calls, “A commercial fact of life. Zone 1 is prime and super-prime, so you have to stick to your knitting … We like the mid-market, we understand the mid-market, and we think there’s a great deal of value there.” Both for owner-occupiers and investors.

Less is More

In between the Deptford and Wembley projects is Hoxton Press. Recently launched in the UK and launching in February in Hong Kong (selling though Knight Frank), the two-tower Hoxton Press is 198 units ranging in size from 605 to 815 square feet. The irregular 16-storey tower (due for completion in 2018) is well located in an ultra-hip neighbourhood overlooking Shoreditch Park and the city to the south, and backing onto Regent’s Canal.

“Hoxton is unique. In 20 years’ time people are going to be talking about this project the way they’re talking about the Barbican now,” enthuses Dickinson. “It’s designed by David Chipperfield and Karakusevic Carson. The [flats] look stunning, the balconies are made of masonry, when you look at the floor plates the majority of it is made up of a six-home plate. Effectively, because of the hexagonal shape, each unit gets a fantastic arc of windows that will let loads of light in, and provide a great living space.”

The studio to three-bedroom flats have protected, 130-square foot wraparound balconies, and all have window glazing in the living area for maximum light, and while there may be no spa or fancy clubhouse, there is a concierge.

“I can see it appealing to expats, people like me who are probably going back to London one day, who already understand the area, are happy to buy off-plan and don’t have the money, or desire, for all the bells and whistles and an £8 service charge,” theorises Director and Head of International Project Marketing at Knight Frank, Mimi Capas.

“It’s going to appeal to Londoners, so that’s a good thing if you’re an investor,” adds Dickinson. “At the end of the day Londoners are going to want to live there and rent them.”

Dickinson and Capas are both confident London will retain its investment lustre throughout 2017, and Dickinson is quick to agree that market uncertainty and instability are very different things. And London doesn’t suffer the former. “There are shades of uncertainty, so what are you uncertain of? Is [London] still going to be a liberal democracy? Yes. Is it still going to be the central time zone of the world? Yes. Still English language? Liberal home ownership laws? Yup. Rule of law, true multiculturalism, great education,” he finishes. “That stuff doesn’t change … The homes we build are for Londoners to live in. That doesn’t mean there’s no place for investors, quite the opposite. If you look at the London market, 25% right now is privately rented, and that’s rapidly moving towards one-third. Investors play a huge part and always have. That will continue and this will appeal for all the right reasons.”

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