Mayfair looks to regain top spot in London’s property market
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The completion of the Mount Street development in Mayfair in 2010 did much to reinvigorate an area of central London that had started to stagnate. For years it had been the pinnacle of the capital’s prime property sector, but by the 1980s and 1990s, with the influx of office space and embassy headquarters, some of Mayfair’s charm had started to rub off.
“It had gotten rather soulless,” says property consultant Charles McDowell, “and prices reflected this. But since the redevelopment there has been a definite softening of Mayfair’s edges: a lot of commercial property has been transformed back into residential and it has become a much more community-orientated place.”
The improvements to Mount Street – which saw £4m spent on roads, pavements and public spaces, as well as the introduction of a wider range of shops – was carried out by Grosvenor, a major landowning estate founded in 1677, which controls about 30 per cent of Mayfair.
Today Grosvenor is in the process of doing it all again, with a £785m investment into various projects across north Mayfair in a bid to reposition the area as the highest performing enclave of prime central London – a title it lost some years back to Knightsbridge and Belgravia. Savills calculates the price per sq ft of residential property in Mayfair at £2,320, while in Knightsbridge and Belgravia it is £2,490 and £2,370 respectively.
“The plan with the new development is to add vitality to the West End as a whole,” says Craig McWilliam, director of Grosvenor’s London estate. He is confident he can bring to Mayfair several retailers who do not already have a presence in the UK. “We think we can turn the northern part of Mayfair into a destination in its own right,” he adds.
The north Mayfair redevelopment began in 2010 and has already seen the completion of The Beaumont, a new art deco hotel run by Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, the restaurateur duo behind The Wolseley on Piccadilly. The hotel, which is due to welcome its first guests in the autumn, will feature a purposefully sepulchral suite designed by Antony Gormley that will reportedly cost £2,500 per night.
There are new residential opportunities, too, with 65 Duke Street and 62 Green Street, completed in 2013 and 2012 respectively, offering a total of 28 apartments for the private rental sector. Three-bedroom apartments at Duke Street are available for £3,400 per week.
“It’s important for us to get a good amount of rental tenants in the area,” says McWilliam, “because no one rents as an investment opportunity; they’re not locking up and leaving the place deserted all the time, they’re renting because they want to live and work in and around Mayfair.”
Other projects in the pipeline include 105,000 sq ft of office space and a new Gagosian Gallery on Grosvenor Hill in the brutalist building that was formerly Savills’ headquarters. “I’d often walk past that building with a colleague and say, ‘That would make a great gallery building’,” says Gary Waterston, director of the Gagosian’s London galleries. “Then, when we heard Grosvenor was redeveloping it, we started the long process of acquiring the lease and transforming it to suit our purposes.” Waterston and McWilliam hope the gallery will open to the public in the early autumn next year.
The arrival of the new gallery, the third Gagosian in London and second in Mayfair, bucks a worrying trend for the future of the arts in the area, which has seen several independent galleries in former artistic hotspots, including Cork Street, being driven out by huge global brands that can afford the rising rents.
“It’s sad that some of the local galleries are going and it’s not a positive thing for the art world,” says Waterston, “but I think these things come in cycles: the galleries in Mayfair – not least the Royal Academy – are part of what makes the area attractive to visitors in the first place. I think intelligent landlords know that and know that diversity in their portfolio is good for business. I am sure the galleries will be back.”
Research from Savills projects strong growth figures for Mayfair, with property prices likely to increase another 3 per cent by the end of the year, and 23.1 per cent by 2018.
“The only thing slowing the market in Mayfair is the shortage of properties,” says Alexander Lewis of Knight Frank, who estimates that in a typical year only 200 properties change hands. “The problem is a lot of sales don’t even register on the radar.”
Prices in Mayfair are undoubtedly high, and picking up anything for less than £1m is incredibly rare. “We had a very small one-bedroom place in Maddox Street come on to the market for £895,000,” says Charles Lloyd at Savills, “and that sold in five days.”
Savills is selling a two-bedroom flat in Curzon Street, measuring about 730 sq ft and in need of some modernisation for £1.55m. Meanwhile, Knight Frank is offering a contemporary two-bedroom duplex apartment on Bolton Street for £3.69m.
A short walk away, in Culross Street, agent John Taylor is selling a four-bedroom, terrace house for £10.9m that, behind its Georgian façade, has been rebuilt and now features four reception rooms, a cinema room, a gym and a roof terrace.
“Some of the most anticipated developments are still quite a long time from coming to the market,” says Roarie Scarisbrick, a partner at buying consultants Property Vision. “The apartment block currently being built at the Audley Square car park isn’t set to complete for a few years. So, too, is the redevelopment by British Land of a site on the corner of Piccadilly and Clarges Street that will be consist of around 40 units plus offices.”
These are developments that will coincide with the opening of the new Crossrail station at Bond Street in 2018. “It’s definitely a big factor in everything we do,” says McWilliam, “trying to work out how we deliver a part of London appropriate for all the new visitors. That might not necessarily be with homes for new residents, but for the offices, the shops and with nice streets and parks for people to come to, work in and enjoy.”
●In March this year there were 56.6 reported crimes committed per 1,000 people in the City of Westminster, which includes Mayfair
●The opening of the Crossrail station at Bond Street in 2018 will cut journey times to Canary Wharf to 13 minutes; while journeys to Heathrow will take 27 minutes
●Overseas buyers make up 70 per cent of house sales in Mayfair, says Savills, with Middle Eastern and Indian buyers leading the way
What you can buy for …
£1m A one-bedroom flat in a mansion block near Oxford Street
£5m A three-bedroom duplex apartment in a period building
£15m A Grade II-listed townhouse with four bedrooms and a cinema
Photograph: Roger Cracknell/Alamy
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