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It has been described as “up and coming” for the best part of 15 years, but is Shoreditch about to take its place at the top table of London’s elite housing markets? And if it does, and the district’s endlessly written-about gentrification is complete, then — whisper it — is anyone still interested?
The heart of Shoreditch still isn’t much to look at. It is a cluster of slow-moving A-roads and Victorian infrastructure that skirts the eastern fringes of the City of London. Most of it is daubed in graffiti and advertising stickers, and all of it is dirtied by traffic pollution. Still, according to figures from Knight Frank, Shoreditch has seen a 46 per cent increase in house prices over the past three years, outstripping prime central London by about 20 per cent.
“For its core market — that’s buyers from the creative industries — I’d say Shoreditch arrived about five years ago; now it’s attracting people from the mainstream markets, who want to attach themselves to a fashionable area,” says Charlie Hart, a partner at Knight Frank
And these buyers are prepared to pay for it. Nicole Efthymiou of Savills says that £1,000 per sq ft is the area’s absolute base rate, rising to about £1,500 for high-spec new developments — figures that would seem absurd to the struggling arty types that started colonising the area in the late 1980s.
The rise of the tech sector around Old Street roundabout in the past 10 years has increased buyer capital and helped foster a keener entrepreneurial spirit, chiefly among Shoreditch’s new ruling elite — not the bearded hipster who used to roam large — but what commentators have dubbed the “Cutester”, the hipster’s younger, neater, more business-savvy sibling.
According to statistics from accountants UHY Hacker Young, 15,620 new business were set up in and around Shoreditch between 2013 and 2014 — almost five times the amount launched in Canary Wharf — and 305,000 sq ft of office space was rented to start-ups, about double the amount in 2012. The activity has been noticed by investors, who Efthymiou estimates make up for roughly a quarter of her buyers. “There’s a huge amount of residential developments in the pipeline,” she says.
One of the biggest, and most controversial, is the Goodsyard, an £800m mixed-use scheme by joint developers Ballymore and Hammerson that will comprise, if it ever wins planning permission, more than 1,450 new homes and 600,000 sq ft of office space. Yet, local campaigners are currently at loggerheads with the developers. The East End Preservation Society calculates that the plans, which include two 42-storey towers, will block out sunlight reaching two-fifths of nearby buildings.
“There’s a lot of money in Shoreditch at the moment,” says Matt Cobb of Hatton Real Estate, “and that can be a good thing, and it can be a bad thing; because whatever you decide to build you have to make sure you won’t be destroying what made the area desirable in the first place.” Hatton is working on two projects in the area: Willow Street Apartments, a 19th-century warehouse that is being converted into eight rental flats, and Curtain Place, a mixed-use site that will feature a range of one, two and three-bedroom units costing from £725,000 to £1.32m.
According to Hart, property around the southern end of Shoreditch is likely to fetch the largest gains. “There is outstanding period housing stock around Spitalfields,” he says, “and it’s occupied by architects and celebrities.” One such property is a four-bedroom terrace house in Wilkes Street built in 1724 that is on sale with Knight Frank for £2.49m. A very different period property is available on nearby Princelet Street where Savills is selling a converted two-bedroom apartment in the old Jackson & Joseph factory for £2.25m.
It is all a far cry from the Victorian slum which Ford Madox Ford described in The Soul of London (1905) as being inhabited by “an intangible cloudlike population of white-faced misery.”
But despite all that has been gained, has Shoreditch lost its edge?
“There’s no doubt about it . . . Shoreditch is becoming a bit boring for the original Shoreditchite,” says Rob Soning of local property developers Londonewcastle. “Shoreditch High Street can be like the west end of Newcastle on the weekend now, it’s full of stags and hens.” However, there are still pockets of cool. Independent boutiques continue to line the streets, and there is a thriving cocktail scene if you know where to look. Happiness Forgets on Hoxton Square and Lounge Bohemia on Great Eastern Street, for example, are refreshingly individual basement bars.
“[Shoreditch] is still dominated by creative industries and personalities and that’s an important attraction,” says Hart, “but arguably Notting Hill was as well 15 to 20 years ago and you know what happened to that.”
Hart is pragmatic about the process. “That’s what happens, people get priced out of the market and they go somewhere else. If they’re pioneers then they will make that place attractive too. Places change.”
● There were 331 reported crimes in Hoxton and Shoreditch in February — more than any other ward in the Hackney borough
● The Shoreditch and Hoxton East ward has 11,875 residents, with a higher proportion of single, multi-person and student-only households than the borough average
● Crossrail will cut journey times from nearby Liverpool Street to Heathrow, from 40 minutes to 35, and to the West End, from eight minutes down to just four
What you can buy for . . .
£500,000 A small one-bedroom flat near Arnold Circus
£1m A two-bedroom apartment in one of the new-build developments on City Road
£3m A four-bedroom Georgian house or converted loft space near Spitalfields
Main photograph: Past London/Flickr