LONDON – Unruffled by Brexit uncertainties and the threat of yet another worldwide financial crisis, London’s property companies are forging ahead with developments across the city center and on both banks of the Thames River.
They are bullish to say the least — and why wouldn’t they be? Brexit or not, the tourists just keep flowing into town: The West End alone sees 200 million visitors annually, according to the New West End Company, which lobbies on behalf of businesses in the area. The areas around Oxford and Regent streets are poised to see an additional 60 million visitors after the new Elizabeth Line opens in the second half of 2019.
South of the river, in Battersea, a new development is springing up in and around the remains of the old coal-fired power station after literally decades of discussion about redeveloping the site. The complex of apartments, public areas, retail, offices, restaurants and leisure areas — not to mention a new Underground station that is set to open — is projected to contribute 20 billion pounds to the U.K. economy once it’s finished in 2020. From the developer’s point of view, Brexit will also bring advantages, with Prime Minister Theresa May promising a pro-business Britain with low tax, “smart regulation” and the lowest rate of corporation tax in the G20. If that turns out to be true, London property will only get hotter.
Here’s a look at the latest properties being developed all over town.
Brompton Cross, which lies at the crossroads of South Kensington and Chelsea, has reinvented itself as a luxury village for the affluent with help from Tribeca Holdings, the boutique property investment company.
While the shopping area has always been an affluent one, with Bibendum, Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Joseph all longtime residents, Tribeca has ramped up the international glam factor, adding contemporary names such as 3.1 Phillip Lim, Acne and Carven alongside children’s labels Il Gufo and Caramel and footwear brands Charlotte Olympia, Golden Goose and Sophia Webster.
Although Chanel had long been an anchor brand in the neighborhood, it recently moved a few minutes’ walk away to the corner of Walton Street and Draycott Avenue, doubling the size of its former store. MSGM has just moved into Chanel’s former Brompton Road unit.
While fashion is a magnet for locals and visitors alike, the area also boasts a number of lifestyle attractions, including Aubaine bakery and café and London’s largest Daylesford Organic Farmshop, which spans 8,000 square feet and has an 80-seat restaurant.
The neighborhood has had many lives: It was a convent in the 13th century and an open-air fruit, vegetable and flower market from the 1600s until the early 1970s before being transformed into a shopping destination. Today it’s a hub for beauty and fashion. Real estate developer Capco led a refresh of the area in 2009, with a focus on building a “department store-style” concept in the covered market and cobbled square. It has overseen the revitalization of Floral Street, which includes a mix of premium fashion, diffusion, denim and contemporary women’s wear.
To direct traffic to these brands, Capco has connected Long Acre, Floral Street and James Street and created a public courtyard with a passageway in between. Visitors can now travel between the beauty brands dotted around the piazza known as the Covent Garden Beauty Quarter, which includes Burberry Beauty Box, Charlotte Tilbury, Tom Ford Beauty, Dior and Nars — to fashion boutiques.
There is a Monica Vinader shop, which spans 465 square feet, on King Street and across the street is the newly installed Kent & Curwen store. Next door in a 19th-century building, is the 15,000-square-foot lifestyle store, The Shop at Bluebird, which stocks labels including Ganni, Isa Arfen, Chloé, Rejina Pyo, Maison Margiela and Isabel Marant as well as a dedicated space for the Fornasetti and Fashion Illustration Gallery.
“Previously, the area wasn’t ‘shopped’ by the people who were in the area. The office population and the residents are now coming back,” said Beverley Churchill, creative director of Capco. Sarah-Jane Curtis, Capco’s director of Covent Garden, said that going forward, “we really want to challenge ourselves on what we can do to bring the digital experience into Covent Garden, how we do omnichannel from our space with our brands.”
To lead the way, Tiffany & Co. has debuted a new retail concept on James Street to tap into the digital-savvy consumer, allowing customers to create digital renderings of their personal designs.
Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross
There are now plenty of reasons to visit King’s Cross besides hopping the train to Paris from St. Pancras station. Situated along Regent’s Canal and beside Central Saint Martins is London’s most recent retail development, Coal Drops Yard. In the surrounding area are international tech giants Google and Facebook and now the British property developer Argent has selected 65 retailers to keep the neighborhood’s tradition of shopkeeping alive.
The stores range from lifestyle boutique Wolf & Badger to Superga and Cos. “We wanted to bring together our wider community and to create a place that is very democratic with a homely ambience — and that also applies to retail as well,” said Craig White, senior project developer at Argent of the 100-million-pound development.
The site is easily accessible with entryways from the canal, a footpath from the station as well as a number of staircases and elevators to draw visitors up to the second-floor shops and restaurants. Michelin-star restaurant Barrafina sits above chocolate shop Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, coffee shop Redemption Roasters and global deli Bodega Rita’s.
“Each store is strategically placed,” said White, who pointed out that Nike, situated near the station, guides customers up the path into the main Coal Drops Yard area, while fashion boutiques pull customers into Samsung’s new 20,000-square-foot London flagship, which sits at the heart of the development.
Bond, Albemarle and Oxford Streets
Great swathes of Mayfair and Oxford Street have undergone an overhaul with the addition of new stores and the remodeling of the ground floor at Selfridges. Shoppers have long flocked to Bond Street to visit the flagships of luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermès, Saint Laurent and Gucci, which all contribute to the street’s annual turnover of 1 billion pounds.
Now with the near completion of London’s new east-west railway — the Elizabeth Line — Westminster City Council, the New West End Company, GLA and Transport for London have overhauled Bond Street’s public spaces and new retailers have snatched up prime property.
Chloé, Loewe, Alaïa and Delvaux are the most recent brands to open on Bond while Thom Browne, Agnona and Self-Portrait have chosen Albemarle Street, which is parallel to Bond, for their first British stores. “We chose the Bond Street location because of its presence in the heart of London. It’s as historical as we are and we wanted to respect what it was,” said Jean-Marc Loubier, chairman and chief executive officer of Delvaux.
Selfridges has poured 300 million pounds into the refurbishment of its ground-floor accessories hall — now the largest in the world — and the public spaces surrounding the store in anticipation of the footfall that the new Elizabeth Line will draw. There are more Selfridges openings to come, including a restaurant called Brasserie of Light that will open later this month. The brasserie will connect to a new men’s wear concept space on the first floor dubbed The Designer Street Room.
Eccleston Yards and Battersea Power Station
Retailers have been eyeing up property adjacent to train stations, which naturally have high levels of traffic. Situated a few moments away from Victoria Station is Eccleston Yards, a new destination for retail meant to appeal to residents of Belgravia, Pimlico and Chelsea — and commuters who pass through the station.
The Grosvenor Estate, one of London’s largest and most committed landowners, said it wanted to focus on providing interactive and social media-friendly experiences in the area. “We worked hard to get exactly the right branding, everything has to be complementary,” said Chrissy Cullen, director of marketing at Grosvenor.
Inside Eccleston Yards is the fitness studio Barry’s Bootcamp, Danish beauty and lifestyle label SMUK, fashion label Tailor Made and experimental concept store 50m, which stocks emerging labels such as Ka Wa Key, Faustine Steinmetz and Daniel Fletcher.
Across the Thames — and a 20-minute walk from Victoria Station — lies Battersea Power Station, an up-and-coming residential, commercial and retail hub. The 9-billion-pound development, which will be completed in 2020, is projected to contribute 20 billion pounds to the U.K. economy. There are more than 250 retail spaces spanning three floors and the aim is to offer affordable luxury across men’s, women’s and children’s.
“We are hand-picking every single retailer and we are scouring the globe,” said Sam Cotton, retail leasing director at Battersea Power Station Development Company. “We’re not only looking for the best retailers, we’re also looking at how we can provide a platform for a wider evolution of retail.”
Interest has peaked from South Korean and Japanese fashion and beauty brands and as of now, Apple has pre-leased 500,000 square feet of office space with an eye to creating a campus at Battersea.