David Cudd's Reviews
It’s hard to talk about The Residence without first explaining the massive regeneration area it sits within. Nine Elms has, for a long time, divided opinion. Many feel it’s a blueprint for everything wrong with the London property market – too many flashy expensive flats, all sold to overseas buyers without any regard for the common Londoner. To be fair, I see their arguments although personally I think it’s rather short sighted.
London is an international city. It attracts attention. People from all over the world want to spend time here. Buyers from all over the world want a little piece of our great city and I for one am rather proud of that. All these ‘flashy expensive flats’ help fund so many shared ownership, key worker group and other forms of affordable housing. Developers have donated hundreds of millions to Councils in London as well as up and down the country helping fuel the current construction boom which has seen increases in house building every year since 2009 with 2012/13 being the only exception (Knight Frank UK House Building Report 2018). Surely, we can all agree this is a good thing. Afterall there’s no debate about the fact we need more homes.
So this bring me onto Nine Elms. A collection of more than 40 projects which are changing the face of this riverside district. At 227 hectares, Nine Elms is by far the largest regeneration zone in central London and sits across the London boroughs of Wandsworth and Lambeth. Transport for London has long since started their extension of the Northern Line which will provide two new tube stations at Nine Elms and Battersea. This will forge a direct link from Nine Elms to Westminster, the City and Leicester Square, all in under 15 minutes. The extension is set to be open in 2020. The urban planners have also been careful to ensure the new area becomes a green and walkable district with plenty of public space and outdoor areas. A new park – Thames River Path – will sweep through the centre of the district and host an array of riverside shops, cafes, restaurants, art spaces and public squares creating a beautiful green corridor between Battersea Power Station and Vauxhall Cross.
The Residence sits in the beating heart of all this transformation and only a couple of minutes’ walk from what will be the new Nine Elms Tube Station. As an agent I was first attracted to the building when I heard of a project in Nine Elms offering luxury flats from circa £1100-1200psf. Significantly cheaper than any of the surrounding competition. I’d soon made up my mind – the quality must be dreadful, the facilities couldn’t be fit for purpose and the ceiling heights had to be low. After my first visit to the scheme I quickly learnt nothing could be further from the truth. The specifications are on par with anything in the area, the facilities include a large gym, business suite, cinema room, large entrance lobby and 24/7 concierge. All for a service charge of just £4 per sq/ft– again significantly lower than any other development in the local. I’ll admit, the facilities in neighbouring Embassy Gardens by Ballymore are better. They’re arguably the best delivered facilities I’m aware off and hard to compete with. If you’re sole buying motivation is facilities, then you’d opt for Embassy Gardens but you’ll have to get comfortable with paying 20% more and the same again year on year in your service charge.
The area still has some way to go. It’s not the finished article. It’s far from completed but slowly but surely the area is getting livelier. Following the completion of Battersea Power Station Phase 1 a Riverside Walk has opened with a collection of new café’s, restaurants, work out studio’s and even a pub. Several of which are located within old railway arches which gives it a more artesian feel. Whenever I’m in the area I always pop into ‘District’ for one of the most delicious coffee’s in London. The American Embassy provides a focal point and has attracted yet more new people to the area since it opened last year. It’s only going to get better as time moves forward. If I had to moan about something, in an ideal world, the railway wouldn’t run behind the development and the blocks themselves could be further apart to help create more privacy and increase natural light especially for the lower floors. Finally, I’d argue that it lacks kerb appeal – while the development certainly isn’t unattractive it’s not beautiful either. No awards for stunning exterior design here. That being said I remain a firm believer that The Residence offers buyers exceptional value and everyone who’s interested in the area should have a look before making any decisions.
I was lucky enough to be involved in this project when it was first launched onto the market in the summer of 2015. Times were a bit different then. I can remember hearing buyers had arrived 24 hours early and intended to camp out for the evening to ensure they got first refusal on the best apartments. I’d only ever seen this behaviour once before – for the launch of Greenwich Peninsula – and that weekend we exchanged 150 apartments in the space of two days.
The launch went as expected and was a huge success. Often the most disappointing aspect working on launches like these are simply you can’t please everyone. Demand simply outstrips supply and even some who queued through the night were unable to secure the apartment they wanted most.
What drove this level of demand? Sensible pricing and a location that boasts arguably the most famous London view of all. For many lucky residents they’d enjoy an unobstructed view of the London Eye across a meandering River Thames and onto the Houses of Parliament. Rightly or wrongly, on a global stage this is what many see as ‘London’. This combination was the cornerstone of an unbelievable sales rate that continued long after the 2016 EU Referendum. A testament to the quality of this project is that it remains one of the few developments launched in 2015 that has held its value to the current day.
Of course, the views and the price were not the only motivating factors. Joint venture partners Canary Wharf Group & Qatari Diar offered buyers variety. The ‘Casson Square’ buildings are interior designed by Johnson Naylor while ‘Belvedere Gardens’ are interior designed by Goddard Littlefair. Both designers are highly regarded and have a wealth of experience in this sector, but the product variation allowed buyers to have choice – and choice at a luxury level. Belvedere Gardens being the grander and more lavish building lent itself well to owner occupiers, while Casson Square would attract investors and owner occupiers and everyone else in-between. All residents will enjoy outstanding facilities which include a private swimming pool, sauna, steam room, treatment rooms and private gym.
It’s unlikely to come as a surprise that Southbank Place sits on the South Bank which is considered a dynamic area in the heart of London’s cultural scene. I don’t know of a single Londoner who doesn’t enjoy the tree-lined walk along the Thames from London Bridge to Westminster Bridge. Tree-lined and littered with restaurants, historic pubs, cafes, bars, markets, theatres and often staging sporadic fairs and events. Sightseers come to admire iconic landmarks like Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern. There’s something for everyone. Although I personally see this setting as a plus, I can also see how some view this as a negative. It’s busy. Very busy. The volume of people makes for a great buzz with lots of energy albeit I can see this might quickly become tiresome. Living in this everyday would require routes to be avoided and plans to be set.
One piece of advice I’d offer to anyone seriously considering Southbank Place is to study the proximity of the buildings to each other. While the scheme spans over five acres the project is dense, and while there is no doubt that some of the views are arguably the best in London, others could potentially be looking into their neighbour’s kitchen! The project isn’t yet complete and these kinds of issues are hard to determine off-plan although, in truth, most potential ‘problem units’ sell very fast once complete as the ‘problems’ turn out to be nothing too problematic at all. That being said, there are often a few compromised units in every scheme so pick wisely.
Please disclose any commercial relationship to this development or developer:
I was involved with the launch of Southbank Place while working at Savills.
Queen’s Park Place (QPP) holds a special place in my heart. Not only do I personally live just around the corner, but it was the first new-build project I worked on while starting a new role with Savills in 2014.
If off-plan sales rates are a measure of a development’s desirability, success and quality, then QPP was a resounding triumph. Armed with no more than an A5 booklet containing a handful of CGI’s and a few floorplans, all apartments (excluding penthouses) sold off-plan at rates of 2-4 a week. Seeing beyond the obvious benefits of the scheme – 50m proximity to Queen’s Park tube station, two large communal gardens set within a gated community, 24/7 concierge, secure underground parking, large balconies, interior designed apartments – buyers could also seek comfort in the positive reputation boutique developer, London Newcastle, had established within the residential development arena.
Now complete, guests, owners & tenants are first greeted with an exceptional double-heighted entrance lobby. A beautiful marble concierge desk runs along one wall, and five clocks each containing a different world time are overhead – surely a nod to the cosmopolitan residents who live here. As you make your way through the first building you exit into the first of two landscaped gardens. Tranquil and calming both to be in and overlook.
The apartments themselves are modern, with open-plan kitchens all containing matt-finish cabinets and sleek Corian worktops with brushed steel splashbacks. All bathrooms come with underfloor heating and bespoke built-in vanity units. Interior Designer Tamzin Greenhill has done an excellent job.
Queen’s Park itself feels like a quaint little village. The main high street, Salusbury Road, has a great collection of cafes, restaurants, boutiques, pubs, florists and wine stores. The park itself is beautiful with something on offer for everyone – table tennis, children’s play area, tennis courts and even a par 3 golf course for a bit of afternoon fun. As a dog lover my only complaint would be that they don’t allow dogs to be taken off their leads to roam. The tube station will have passengers in Oxford Circus within 15 minutes. Queen’s Park tube is also an exchange platform, so almost every other train is empty upping your chances of a seat! While the proximity of the tube is an obvious advantage, it’s also QPP’s biggest faux pas. The development hugs the railway lines and while steps have been taken to mitigate the impact (including triple-glazed windows) it’s still not ideal. New technologies mean the foundations are constructed in such a way you don’t ever feel the railway, though, so overall impact is light.
For any investors out looking it’s worth noting QPP sits on the edge of the South Kilburn Regeneration Programme – a 15 year project currently half way through set to deliver 2,400 new homes, a new primary school, improved public spaces, a new park, new health facilities and new retail destinations. While this will continue to improve the overall desirability of Queen’s Park as an area, the real good news is that by sitting on the western edge of the construction, anyone living at QPP will not be disturbed by the ongoing works.
Television Centre (TVC) is a special development. There’s so much to talk about. Where should I start?
I could kick off with the historical element of the development, the celebrities who have graced the former BBC HQ and continue to do so at the remaining three active film studios or the huge investments and improvements in the public realm. Maybe the outstanding facilities which have been delivered exceptionally or the commercial tenants who generate life, attract new people and helped in creating an instantly buzzing atmosphere in a previously undesirable and somewhat forgotten part of town.
I could begin by discussing the greater regeneration of the White City area, including the expansion of Westfield (now the largest shopping centre in Europe) or Berkeley Group’s new White City Living development, which will create a new five-acre landscaped park for the local community to enjoy. Or the master plan for Imperial College London’s new campus ‘Imperial West’, which includes 600 student units, research and development facilities, a commercial hotel / offices / retail / private residential in a 35-storey tower, a Research & Translation Hub and eventually 3000 researchers solving the challenges of the future. All lovely to hear if you’re an investor looking for a tenant for your Television Centre apartment.
I haven’t even mentioned the apartments, which have been conceptually designed to pay homage to the site’s history while delivering them in the contemporary way expected of a new build. Subtle touches include mosaic tiles (first seen in the lobby) which continually connect you as you move from the development’s communal areas and into your home (appearing again in your bathroom). The grand entrance lobby provides the friendly and helpful concierge team with a place to greet visitors and residents alike. All too often I’m greeted with a miserable doorman who’s keen to instate their key holding power on estate agents. Only smiles and helpfulness have I experienced at TVC.
The biggest complaint I’ve heard is the distance from building to building which I can understand although, in truth, the distances are significantly wider than a traditional London street. That being said I get it. Privacy or rather a lack of it from certain apartments has put some people off. Personally, it’s not such a concern given the distances are 22m (at their narrowest point) and considering the rest of what the development has to offer. The gym is arguably London’s best – I haven’t seen better. Operated by Soho House’s brand ‘The Cow Shed’ it’s refreshing to see a resident’s gym with a genuine buzz about it. Members of Soho House Group can use the facilities, but I don’t see this as a problem. What would you rather, an empty gym with just your next door neighbour for company. or a busy gym atmosphere with lots of people and energy? It’s a no brainer.
If I had to take a dig at the scheme in would be at Wood Lane itself (where the scheme sits) and the traffic build up – especially at rush hour. Not that it’s the developer’s fault. It’s particularly unpleasant at the moment as construction works on White City Living continue and make-shift pedestrian walkways narrow the road to uncomfortable levels. I’m a motorist so it’s annoying although if you don’t have a car the tube connections are first class. Central, Circle and District Lines are all within a two-minute walk.
A few honourable mentions go to the large break-out spaces, the business suite and the cinema room which, while in use, has an illuminated ‘ON AIR’ sign to guard from unwanted interruptions. Another classy touch which links nicely to the history of the site.
Living at Television Centre will cost you considerably more than an apartment on a street close by, it’s true, but the same can be said for any new build and there’s genuine value for money in design, facilities, and transport links. Rather than comparing value by whats for sale on the neighbouring street, it’s best to compare with similar new-build developments. In doing that I think all will see the real value here.
Please tell us what you like and dislike about this area:
The local area is dominated by Westfield shopping centre and while this is convenient it’s not somewhere you’d want to visit everyday. The Westfield ‘antidote’ is essentially the new retail spaces in the commercial section of Television Centre which offers a good selection of restaurants including Homeslice (best pizza in the area), Kricket (delicious Asian fashion tapas) or the better known Bluebird Cafe. Within the next 12-18 months you’ll start to see the railway arches connecting Westfield to White City Living’s new park open with several boutique operators – or so that’s the plan.
Please disclose any commercial relationship to this development or developer:
I don’t have any