One of the biggest regeneration projects in west London since the Second World War is under way. Arabella Youens asks the experts whether now is the time to invest
Earls Court has remained a bit of an anomaly on London’s residential map given that it’s sandwiched between some of the most expensive real estate in the country: no longer the landing pad for freshly arrived Australians to store their backpacks and further still from its reign in the 1970s as the heart of the capital’s gay nightlife scene, it still juxtaposes gritty bedsits with soaring town-house prices.
Part of its lack of identity could be linked to the fact that it’s sliced through by two streets, the very unlovely Earls Court Road and the even less attractive Warwick Road, which are thoroughfares of dual-lane traffic day and night. However, all this could be on the verge of change with the redevelopment of the Earls Court exhibition centres —and the surrounding 77 acres of former goods yards and wasteland— that is currently under way.
The first phase of this redevelopment— which, uniquely in London, is being carried out by one developer, Capco (which also owns Covent Garden)—is already off the ground at the former Earls Court exhibition centre car park in Seagrave Road.
Anyone who remembers a scruffy, open expanse bordering the railway sidings up the west side of the Brompton Cemetery will be surprised to see a series of smart mansion-block-style apartments, with gardens designed by Chelsea gold-medal-winning designer Andy Sturgeon—the first residents are due to move in later this year. According to Henry Lumby of Savills (020–7016 3808) sales of phase one of Lillie Square have been brisk; starting prices for phase two begin at a punchy £799,000 for a one-bedroom flat. ‘It’s been popular with people wanting to downsize from the local area as well as family investors and we anticipate that there will be lots of owner-occupiers once the project has been completed.’
For these considerable sums, residents will be able to take advantage of a 20,000sq ft clubhouse on site, which will have a gym, swimming pool, sauna, private dining area and, for those wanting to cut a certain dash, a fleet of the latest Aston Martins will be waiting to escort them into town. According to Mike Hood of Capco, this clubhouse will be ‘one of a kind in the capital, which aims to provide the services and lifestyle more akin to a five-star hotel’. Lillie Square is the first of four new urban villages due to be built in the ground formerly occupied by the exhibition centres as well as, more controversially, local-authority housing blocks, which are due for demolition.
In total, 7,500 new homes will be built and a new high street will run from North End Road to Warwick Road and a new north-south thoroughfare, The Broadway, will link Cromwell Road to Lillie Road. Finally, a new ‘green lung’, the Lost River Park, will form part of the 7ó acres of green space set aside in the scheme. So is it time to invest?
‘I’ve worked in this part of Fulham since 2009 and that area has been “up and coming” for years, but has never up and come,’ says Sam McArdle of The Buying Solution (07918 561050). ‘However, with this new scheme on the cards—which some say is one of the biggest regeneration projects in central west London since World War Two— for someone willing to play the long-term game, this could be a really good bet.’ The key, according to Sam, is to ‘tread carefully’. He advises: ‘If you’re interested in going in at this early stage, don’t make mistakes about buying the right unit. The vital thing to remember is that, when all the buildings complete, the market will be awash with flats, so, unless yours stands out—a good floor, an exceptional view—you might struggle to find a good tenant.’
Another option would be to opt for a property in one of the surrounding streets that, until now, have arguably suffered from lack of amenities and then piggy-back on those provided by the new development. Addresses such as Earl’s Court Square and Nevern Square have already benefitted from an uplift of interest in the area, says Ashley Wilsdon of Middleton Advisors (020–7370 4242), who says prices have reached £1,700 per sq ft.
Sam is advising his clients to look west to Barons Court, just one stop down the Piccadilly and District Lines, where prices remain about £1,100 per sq ft. ‘It’s traditionally suffered from having no amenities, but, as that’s about to change, draw your own conclusions.’