Riverwalk on the north shore of London

For 50 years, London-based Heron International has been making a name for itself in the UK as well as eight other countries. Having completed 168 projects in the retail, commercial, leisure and cultural sectors, Heron has finally turned its attention to residential development.

Kicking off with The Heron in the singular Barbican district, Heron has refined its residential focus as Ronson Capital Partners, and is well on its way to a position among London’s most notable homebuilders. Currently on tap: Riverwalk.

Finding a place

“We’ve been doing this a long time, but the focus from around 2007 was to look at prime London residential,” begins RCP’s Laurence M Ronson of Heron’s decision to expand into residential property.

“The first was The Heron, in the City of London, which was 285 apartments, and that was very well received – and well received in Asia as well as domestically. So that gave us a further appetite for more residential.”

With demand for property in London seemingly ceaseless, more and more boutique developers have entered the market. Ronson is one of many, but for now is steering clear of mega-projects, instead focusing on smaller, high-spec buildings in attractive neighbourhoods.

RCP’s upcoming Chiltern Place, its third project, is 55 units located in Marylebone. Chiltern Place is tucked amid some of London’s swishest landmarks and popular attractions, in an area rife with green spaces, shopping, dining and a future Crossrail connection. In between those two launches is Riverwalk, sitting on the Thames in the heavily sought-after SW1 postcode.

Not much has put a stop to demand for London property; in the weeks and months following Brexit, Riverwalk continued to perform well, despite recent stamp duties that weakened local buying sentiment, as Ronson sees it.

“When the government announced the two stamp duty increases it had a massive influence on domestic buyers. They’d love to buy, but the cost of buying has made people think, ‘Well, maybe I’ll stay here and build an extension’. A stamp duty increase always dampens sentiment and takes time for the market to absorb.”

In addition, more and more domestic buyers are turning to primary sales, leading to a struggling secondary market that skews the lingering, negative perception regarding the proliferation of empty flats owned by overseas investors.

“Unlike some other UK developers, we always launch in the UK first. So I suppose in terms of sales to Asia it’s roughly 20%,” notes Ronson, shooting down the notion that London is “overwhelmed” by foreign buyers.

“London’s a global city, so why should we have that attitude? Even if we didn’t sell around the world, we’d be selling domestically to so-called foreign buyers. From our point of view, what we like to see is a building that’s lived in.

“There’s nothing worse than a dark building, and that’s where the negative press comes into play.”

Adds Savills’ director of residential development sales, Ned Baring: “If you look at Belgravia, or Knightsbridge, the lights are off there too. The second hand market is just as much to blame for that perception as new projects.

“We are seeing Londoners coming into the new development market; people want 21st century living. It’s a different phase of the cycle and the new development market is doing very well across London.”

Going with the flow

Riverwalk (completed and on sale) is a rare north shore location – the only new tower between Westminster and Fulham – perched on the Thames and sitting within striking distance of some of the city’s most prestigious schools, shopping, commercial districts and cultural precincts.

With strong connectivity at Victoria, Pimlico and even Vauxhall, Riverwalk boasts the requisite five-star amenities demanded by those in the market for properties like it. There’s a good deal of choice in London now, particularly for HNWIs and executives, and addresses need to stand out according to Baring.

“What makes schemes stick out, obviously, is location, specifications and amenities. A development needs to be layered,” he argues.

Ronson echoes that sentiment, and describes some of what makes Riverwalk so remarkable.

“Your relationship with the river is fantastic; you’re right on the river here. There’s prize-winning architecture. The quality of finish is exceptional. The floor-to-ceiling heights are 2.75 metres. The Harrods concierge service, the 24/7 security, secure basement car parking … I could go on, but I just think it’s a unique development in a unique location in SW1, one of London’s golden postcodes.”

Riverwalk’s design comes courtesy of architects Stanton Williams (King’s Cross Square), and is distinct for its curved shaped that maximises some of London’s best views.

“It’s iconic, it’s unique. We’re very passionate about what we do in terms of the quality of the finishes, the architects we work with, the interior design, space planners,”
Ronson says.

“If you look at it from above, you’ll see that it meanders with the river. There’s a sensational synergy with the curves of the building. Some of the internal features, such as the rotunda that brings the external architecture into the apartments, really emphasises that relationship.”

Not too far away are a clutch of royal parks, the Tate Britain, Pimlico, Westminster Abbey, Westminster School, Millennium Pier and the West End.

The architecture exploits natural light, and the living spaces in the 116 one to four-bedroom apartments and penthouses also feature seamless terraces among other perks.

And Ronson is confident in the project’s potential to be full – with tenants or owner-occupiers.

“Without puffing our chests, I think if you’re in the right location, the product is best-in-class, and appropriately priced there is business to be done.”

Remaining properties at Riverwalk are priced from £1.25 million (HK$12 million).

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