Old offices turned into apartments

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 March, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 March, 1997, 12:00am

As development sites in Central London's plushest residential areas become scarce, builders are turning to secondary inner-city districts to construct new projects.

Apart from erecting new residential projects in the City of London, neighbouring Clerkenwell and traditionally down-at-the-heel areas such as Hoxton and Elephant and Castle, developers are also converting obsolete offices into apartment blocks.

Leading London estate agents Savills found that a quarter of the residential developments being undertaken in Central London last year were office conversions.

These conversions are popular with Hong Kong investors.

In the City of London, 16 of the 150 apartments at 1 Prescot Street, a former headquarters of the Co-operative Society, were bought by Hong Kong investors at an exhibition in February. Prices start at GBP109,000 (about HK$1.35 million) for a one-bedroom flat.

In the south London district of Elephant and Castle, 195 of the 413 units on offer at Metro Central were snapped up by Hong Kong buyers in three weeks after it was launched at an exhibition in February.

Part of Metro Central's attraction to investors was the high 10 to 12 per cent yields promised by its developer, St George. Prices start from GBP40,000 for a studio.

Conversions and new developments are attracting tenants unable to afford the high rents for homes in London's established residential areas, or who wish to be closer to work places.

Estate agent Hamptons International opened a letting and management office in the City of London recently in response to the 'phenomenal increase in demand and supply of rented accommodation in the city and fringe areas'.

Hamptons expects the City of London population to increase 30 per cent over the next two years, with a 25 per cent rise in the city fringes.

In the city and neighbouring areas, shops, restaurants and bars are opening up to cater for the influx of city workers.

Apart from 1 Prescot Street, other conversions and new developments coming on to the market include 17 units at Ludgate Hill, 52 at the Cobalt building and 81 in the first and second phases at Spittalfields.

Prices start at GBP150,000 for a one-bedroom flat at Ludgate Hill and GBP150,000 for a two-bedroom apartment at Spittalfields.

On the city fringes, new developments include 1 Britton Street in Clerkenwell and conversions include the Lexington in Hoxton.

Prices for the 78 apartments and 11 penthouses at the Lexington start at GBP120,000 for a one-bedroom flat with underground parking and a gym. Britton Street was already part-sold to Hong Kong and British buyers last November and will be brought back on to the market in June.

On the eastern edge of the city, Taylor Woodrow is building City Quays, a residential-marina development, next to the Tower of London. Prices start from GBP230,000 for a one-bedroom flat with parking.

Taylor Woodrow predicts investors will make returns of 8.5 per cent from letting out City Quays flats. The first units are scheduled for completion next November.

Amenities include a gym, shops, restaurants, bars and moorings for rent.

At Limehouse, on the edge of the London Docklands, developer Fairbriar is refurbishing old merchants' houses as flats and constructing apartments and a restaurant at its Dunbar Wharf development. Prices start from GBP100,000 for a one-bedroom flat.

Away from the city is Thames Rise, in the south London suburb of Battersea.

Designed by internationally renowned British architect Richard Rogers, the Taylor Woodrow development overlooks the River Thames. Prices start from GBP220,000 and 103 apartments are on offer.

Thames Rise facilities include underground parking, taxi rank, porterage, air-conditioning and gardens.