28th November – The Times
Paddington Basin and the Waterside regeneration plan have transformed an area once seen as seedy
Paddington in northwest central London is best-known for its station by Brunel and the marmalade-loving bear who takes its name. This weekend it will be busy with families following the trail of 50 Paddington statues laid out to mark today’s release of Paddington, the film. The bears will entertain Londoners and tourists for the day — but the area’s booming property market is attracting British and foreign buyers for the long haul.
Hamptons International reports that prices in the area have risen by 14.1 per cent in 12 months to an average of £1.055 million. Significantly, European Land has this week launched six penthouses at 3 Merchant Square, a new-build at Paddington Basin on the Grand Union Canal, at £3.4 million to £7.95 million. The developer expects they’ll sell to UK and overseas buyers seeking a pied-à-terre and investors after yield and capital gains.
That’s remarkable for a district that was considered seedy for years and known in the Sixties for its slum landlords and prostitutes. The transformation of Paddington Basin is a central part of the larger Paddington Waterside regeneration plan, which is fast revitalising 80 acres previously unknown to non-locals. This features new buildings by leading architects — providing flats, retail units and offices, including the headquarters of M&S.
Despite significant price rises recently, Paddington remains considerably cheaper than neighbouring areas, with one-bedroom flats priced from about £400,000, two-bedroom flats from £850,000 and houses from £2.5 million. Hamptons says that prices around the station are 20 per cent cheaper than in well-heeled adjacent districts.
The agent says that an increase in supply means buyers have the best choice they’ve had for four or five years. The area has a broad range of housing stock, from modern serviced flats to stuccoed 19th-century town houses on garden squares; the smartest are Westbourne Terrace and Gloucester Terrace on the Bayswater border. Hamptons says this month has been particularly busy for sales as people seek to move in by Christmas.
So, what’s the case for Paddington? First, location. From the basin, you’re a five-minute walk from Hyde Park and ten minutes from Selfridges on Oxford Street. The chic boutiques, pubs and eateries of Connaught Village and Marylebone High Street are local. Paddington itself has good convenience shopping with the likes of M&S, and high-end retailers are set to move into the basin. Nevertheless, Praed Street remains likeably shabby and the area is very diverse. You can still find proper old-man pubs and perfect Lebanese falafel for a few pounds.
North of Hyde Park is decidedly hipper than Kensington and Chelsea to the south. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were this week rumoured to have viewed the £25 million penthouse in the Chilterns, the Squire and Partners building next to the Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone. It’s London’s hottest property and is a ten-minute walk from Paddington Basin. It now seems that they didn’t in fact view; but it was plausible. For some proven celeb kudos, Keira Knightley previously lived in Bayswater and was a regular at the Victoria in Paddington.
Transport links are good and getting better. Paddington station has services to destinations to the west, including Reading, Bristol, and Penzance; and the Heathrow Express, which takes 15 minutes to the airport. Significantly, the new Crossrail line will bring faster rail links to the West End, the City and Docklands from 2018. Trains will take five minutes to Tottenham Court Road and ten to Liverpool Street; down from ten and twenty by Tube. That makes the commute easier both for creative types working around Soho and City workers.
Stephen Fairfax, of Knight Frank Hyde Park, says that Crossrail is a significant, ongoing driver of local prices: “Prices within a ten-minute walk of the station are likely to outperform the local market by 1 per cent per year and there’s strong demand across that local market because W2 still represents good value for money.”
The other transport artery is the canal, which you can follow on foot or by bike to Little Venice, Regent’s Park, Camden Town and hipster districts to the east. Vintage narrowboats are moored under the new Paddington Basin developments and residents and visitors can hire canoes and paddleboards in the summer. The basin itself has a real buzz; office workers cram the benches at lunchtime even in November and at weekends there’s a family feel, with visitors captivated by the sculptural “rolling” bridge by the designer Thomas Heatherwick.
Although the area has been revitalised already, there’s considerable change to come. The final phase of the Paddington Basin scheme is a landmark tower by Robin Partington at 1 Merchant Square, which will be the tallest building in Westminster — at 42 storeys — when it’s finished at the same time as Crossrail. It’s been nicknamed the Cucumber and includes a boutique hotel, luxury flats and a sky bar. Plans to turn the adjacent Queensway area of Bayswater into the “Covent Garden of the West” by 2020 should also benefit Paddington.
Incomers to date include international buyers taking advantage of easy-access via Heathrow, City workers and young professionals generally, plus investors seeking to profit from the regeneration. International buyers in particular like the convenience and extensive facilities provided by higher-spec new-build apartments.
The ultimate properties in this category are the six penthouses at 3 Merchant Square, which occupy the top storeys of a 21-storey building by Robin Partington, that has 159 private and 42 affordable apartments. All the two, three and four-bedroom penthouses have views across central London and the City from floor-to-ceiling windows and large roof terraces. The pads have been individually designed with different characters “but the same DNA”, as the architect puts it. That includes thoughtful, flexible layouts, well-chosen materials and the best fittings. The look’s contemporary and restrained so it’ll work with either modern furniture or antique.
The largest, £7.95 million penthouse, is 4,308 sq ft, including 1,629 sq ft of outdoor space, with two terraces to the east and west sides of the living room and a south-facing wraparound terrace on the bedroom level. Residents have underground parking and access to a business centre, private screening room and a number of communal areas. The non-penthouse flats have already sold out and the first residents are moving in.
If you’re after a new-build apartment off-plan, Paddington Exchange from Taylor Wimpey has 123 one, two and three-bedroom apartments, all with terraces or balconies, over 14 floors — with one-bedroom apartments from £990,000. It’s on the site of a former school between Paddington Basin and the Westway and completes in 2016.
Among traditional properties, Hamptons has a 610 sq ft one-bedroom flat on the top floor of a period building on Sussex Place — with lift and caretaker — that offers a bright, airy space, with views overlooking Bathurst Mews. You get a reception room, separate fitted kitchen and a 13 ft by 12 ft bedroom with one wall of floor-to-ceiling fitted wardrobes and an en suite bathroom. It’s priced at £699,950 and has off-street parking.