Property

From Fantasy to Reality

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Hong Kong investors have heard time and again about new Londonprojects that were going to revolutionise entire districts and set new standards for urban living. In UK development, ‘placemaking’ is dangerously close to becoming a gimmick-y marketing tool, akin to slapping ‘green’ or ‘natural’ on everything from GM (yes, the car manufacturer) to pet food.

As savvy as Hong Kong investors are, it still requires mental gymnastics to envision how a brownfield site or a derelict river dock could turn into one of London’s next great destinations. But now buzzing with eateries, shops, weekend markets, cultural amenities, students, professionals and visitors every day, the massive King’s Cross regeneration is living, breathing proof that placemaking works. Also living and breathing in other parts of London are Lodha Group’s Lincoln Square and Stanhope’s Television Centre.


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Even Keeled
London is once again proving resilient, with Brexit worries largely on the backburner these days. Rumblings of banks packing up for greener, more European pastures in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Dublin appear to be exploratory despite continental cities actively wooing businesses and talent. In many cases, exploratory is as good as it gets. “At the moment the evidence seems to be that there hasn’t been the migration of jobs the media likes to report—so far—and though they may want to move, there isn’t the availability of space,” theorises Stanhope sales and marketing director Peter Allen. “Frankfurt can’t meet the demand. The only tall tower in Paris, Tour Montparnasse, is 20 storeys. Everything else is eight.”

London’s last (temporary) mass exodus followed the 2008 Lehman collapse, but Brexit is a very different beast, and European dynamics could change, but the numbers appear to remain in Ol’ Blighty’s favour for now; Savills research indicated the first quarter of 2018 recorded US$7.5 billion worth of cross-border inbound investment into London—ahead of New York ($3.2 billion), and emerging rivals Amsterdam and Paris ($2.7 and $2.6 billion respectively). Brexit apprehension is down, political risk is still low, fundamentals are strong, and London has trounced Dublin and Frankfurt in banking job vacancies. The only city ahead of London in value terms? Hong Kong with $12 billion. For now, London still needs those new places. 


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The Professional
Billed by Lodha as a place “where great minds live,” Lincoln Square is less about placemaking than place-enhancing. Within walking distance of Lincoln Square are Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the London School of Economics, the British Museum, the Royal Courts of Justice, King’s College, the College of Surgeons, and offices for Facebook, Amazon, EY, pwc, The London Times, Goldman Sachs, Google, and The Guardian among others. It goes without saying that the dining, shopping and entertainment in nearby Covent Garden, Soho, Fitzrovia and on the riverfront are peerless, as are the elegant designs by Patricia Urquiola and Bowler James Brindley among others. For those that do require transit, impeccable connections can be found at Holborn, Chancery Lane, Temple and Covent Garden. Places don’t come more complete. 


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"Lincoln Square is … [in] an ancient neighbourhood of London that is steeped in history in addition to the famous academic, legal and cultural institutions nearby. It is one of the finest postcodes known for its proximity to the City and also the cultural hub of Covent Garden,” states Lodha UKsales director Charlie Walsh, of what the project brings to the district. “We are passionate about design, and Lincoln Square reflects this through each carefully considered detail to ensure the development lies sympathetically with its immediate surroundings. The work of PLP Architecture and [landscape architects] Gustafson
Porter + Bowman will undoubtedly make Lincoln Square a timeless masterpiece."

Lincoln Square’s enviable location for professionals meant 50% of its 221 flats sold 12 months before completion, but the strong tenant pool in tech, finance and education industries bodes well for investors. Lodha is estimating monthly rental rates from £2,800 for studios up to £18,000 for three-bedroom flats (HK$30,000 to $190,000).


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The Cool Kid
In a bit of a contrast to Lincoln Square’s lawyerly, traditional polish is Television Centre in the established, bustling White City regeneration. Anchored by the old BBC TV studios—the Question Mark—the project is seeing a renaissance in interest now that residents are moving in, the iconic locations open to the public and the promise of the scheme is realised. Hongkongers have already taken to TVC: 12% of the purchases so far have come from the SAR, along with 26 other nations. Rental yields are already a respectable 3.5%, and at this point in London’s property cycle, it’s a smart buy. “This is truly a regeneration area that’s delivering on its promises,” notes Stanhope’s Allen.


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White City is like Lincoln Square in that many of the essential elements for a strong regeneration and long-term investments, such as infrastructure, residences, offices, schools and green spaces, were already there. TVC is trading on the area’s rich modern history, chiefly the 1908-14 exposition pavilions’ marble cladding and the BBC’s studio legacy. The studio’s old terrazzo floor has been repurposed as the residence reception, but the dent left from 50 years of rock ‘n’ roll legends standing at the front desk remains. One of the biggest John Lewis stores in the UK is open, and new campuses for Imperial College and The Royal College of Art will soon add another young, progressive edge to White City. 

“This is an amazing community—and not something coming. It’s there now. A few weeks ago ‘The Avengers: Infinity War’ premiere was there. The offices are finished and occupiers are moving in; we have just announced a 212,000 square-foot deal with Publicis advertising group to move 2,000 of their people there to add to The White Company who have relocated their UK HQ from South Kensington to the site; there are 3,000 staff in the BBC; and Soho House, Patty & Bun, Bluebird and Homeslice restaurants are putting the area on the map. It’s all coming together.”


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Approximately 90 homes remain available at Television Centre, including 24 premium penthouses still in the planning stage. Prices range from £645,000 to £8 million (HK$6.9 to $85 million). Lincoln Square is offering just under half of its total 221 apartments, with prices beginning at £1.29 million (HK$13.5 million). For details refer to televisioncentre.com and lincolnsquare.co.uk. 

 

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