The start came with the opening of Blackfriars South, the first new train station on the south bank of the Thames for 120 years. A year later the area of Blackfriars is on a roll with anew housing and office developments, part of a major regeneration initiative linking Southwark’s historic waterfront to reborn Elephant & Castle.
The location, a 20-minute stroll from Covent Garden and the Bank of England, once known as the Piccadilly of the south, will be among the brightest lights once again in the capital. More than 30,000 jobs and 2,500 homes are coming, providing yet another boost to the fêted SE1 postcode.
Blackfriars Road, a boulevard-style thoroughfare running south from the river, is the spine of this zone. More than a dozen large projects are under way or in the pipeline, including One Blackfriars, a glitzy new skyscraper being built at the foot of the bridge and already smashing price records for southside homes — studio apartments cost from £960,000. The glass-clad tower tapers in at the bottom and when complete in 2016 will be similar in height to the 591ft Gherkin. Call developer St George on 020 7871 7188.
There will be affordable flats for first-time buyers, cheaper homes and loft-style apartments tucked away in side streets. Southwark planners aim to replace outmoded Sixties office blocks with mixed-use schemes that create links to back streets and help to bring the area back to life as a neighbourhood.
The Southwark council masterplan sets high architectural standards, steered by a design panel that has some lofty ideals — to promote organic change that respects the fabric of the existing neighbourhood and ensures better homes and more jobs for local people. Transport for London is planning improvements including pavement widening along Blackfriars Road, which has relatively light vehicle use but is one of the capital’s busiest cycling routes.
More than 30 million people, including tourists, pour out of Southwark Tube station on Blackfriars Road to make their way to Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe at Bankside each year. The area is not only a cultural and tourist destination — and an expanding residential neighbourhood — increasingly it is a place for office workers, especially media and finance-sector employees.
Part of the area’s charm is its urban residential mix: riverside flats, handsome Victorian terraces, charitable and church housing, reasonably well cared-for council estates, factory and warehouse lofts and live-work homes. Redevelopment of a giant concrete data centre between Bankside and Blackfriars Road will create a new five-acre urban quarter with 490 homes and a new public square, with disused railway arches opening up for use as shops, galleries and restaurants.
“The site is right on the river and extremely under-utilised,” says Mark Harris, managing director of Carlyle Group, a hedge fund which is steering the project.
South Bank Tower is another notable project, with 191 private apartments and one of London’s largest private roof gardens, plus residents’ lounge and sky bar. Prices from £625,000. Call CBRE on 020 7182 2477.
St George’s Circus, with its impressive obelisk, marks the south-eastern end of Blackfriars Road, and here Barratt is planning a 400-home scheme that includes a 28-storey tower alongside a prized conservation area.
Affinity Sutton housing association is building 53 homes at 90 Blackfriars Road, while Linden Homes is soon to start an 86-home development between Surrey Row and Pocock Street.
Grubby goes glossy
For decades the small-scale commercial district between Blackfriars Road and Borough was judged the wrong side of the tracks, too close to grubby railway viaducts to be a desirable place to live. But the area is smartening up fast. Launching in early December 2013 is a boutique scheme of eight apartments next to historic almshouses on Glasshill Street. Prices from £925,000. Call estate agent Daniel Cobb on 020 7357 0026.
Union Street Café, the new Gordon Ramsay restaurant, will attract the fashionistas to the area. It occupies a large warehouse space alongside a black-cab garage, itself a development target. Southside in Union Street is another launch as a former car park site becomes a designer apartment complex. Prices from £820,000 to £2.25 million. Call 020 7749 3310.
Leading property consultants Knight Frank and CBRE consider Blackfriars as part of “prime” central London — the first time an area south of the Thames has been covered. Back from the riverfront, homes typically range between £700 and £900 a square foot, relatively good value for a buzzing postcode so close to all the action.
“The area has raw edges but buyers who know it intimately and follow the improvements planned will get the message,” says Nick Davies, new homes director of Stirling Ackroyd.
He and others believe that nearby Elephant & Castle, in the early stages of a 10-year regeneration programme and offering cheaper property, will be a big beneficiary of the Blackfriars makeover. Currently disconnected, the two areas will be joined up by a ribbon of development, with One the Elephant, a new 284-apartment skyscraper, and One Blackfriars forming the bookends of this revitalised district.