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Forget Boris and Brexit, London property market is powering up

The lights are finally back on at the iconic Battersea Power Station as it morphs into a rather enigmatic new neighbourhood that’s already a hit with wealthy GCC millennials

The top brass at the redevelopment say they are pitching Battersea to UAE investors as a ‘Downtown Dubai on the Thames’.

In a world of construction hyperbole, the four white Art Deco chimney towers of London’s Battersea Power Station are genuinely historic and iconic. Built in 1929, they’re featured on everything from the Beatles madcap film Help! to the cover of Pink Floyd’s groundbreaking seventies album Animals.

A few years ago, Beyoncé even projected the video for Run the World (Girls) all the way up the famous monument. It’s probably this pop culture status that has saved Battersea from the demolishers — the sky-piercing brick towers aren’t lovely as such, but they are loved.

Since its abandonment in the eighties, this industrial behemoth overlooking the Thames River on the South Bank has provided nothing but headaches for potential developers. Until now.

The top brass at the redevelopment say they are pitching Battersea to UAE investors as a ‘Downtown Dubai on the Thames’.

Luxury unleashed

With the financial banking of Malaysian investors, a mammoth £9 billion redevelopment of the whole site is well underway — Phases 1, 2 and 3 are set for completion in 2021, with the whole project expected by the late 2020s. Part luxury community — complete with Frank Gehry’s only residential building in the UK — and part artsy hub, the brains behind it are trying something a bit daring.

For a start, this is no gated luxury community — anyone can wander through. The authorities are even constructing a new Tube line and station to welcome the expected 40 million annual visitors to the area.

This may come as shocking news to those familiar with the nearby “golden triangle” for Middle Eastern property buyers in London — Mayfair, Belgravia, Knightsbridge (i.e. credit card throwing distance to Harrods). The general public, heading here?

The first phase of the reborn Battersea is named Circus West and consists of a mix of apartments, offices and shops across two buildings situated on the western side. Around 1,000 British and international occupiers have already moved in — including several from the UAE and wider GCC.

If you fancy a gorgeous glass-fronted penthouse overlooking the Thames, you’ll need to hurry up as they are selling fast. The most glamorous can be yours for around £20 million; alternatively, a two-bedroom apartment at Circus West can be bought for £1,070,000 on the re-sale market.

Meanwhile, the second phase of the development, the Grade II-listed power station itself, will be opening to the public in 2021 as a massive mixed-use space.

Cool Britannia making a comeback

Big global brands always smell an opportunity, and it’s telling that electronics giant Apple is poised to move 1,400 of its employees into the station’s premises, occupying some 500,000sqft. This was an unexpected coup for project and has sealed its “cool” credentials.

The top brass at the redevelopment say they are pitching Battersea to UAE investors as a “Downtown Dubai on the Thames”. Truthfully though — for this writer at least — the comparison doesn’t work. Wandering around its cobbled streets, navigating scattered water features while nearby café dwellers chat and laugh over an alfresco lunch, the new Battersea feels much more like a trendy cousin of Dubai Marina — and this is a good thing.

“We are catering here to a very broad range of people, from children all the way through to those who are active but retired,” explains Andrew Jones, director of special projects and Battersea’s sales director for the MENA region.

“They will live here, eat here, work here; this will be a genuine community with an incredible experiential lifestyle. And as the estate evolves there will be new phases with different nuances that keep up with the styles of the times.”

Office space inside the Power Station, where business members club No.18 will occupy space.

London 2.0

One massive aspect to this neighbourhood is its unapologetic wooing of those oh-so-fussy millennials. Forget Starbucks, say hello to The CoffeeWorks Project — an independent family-run business described as “one of London’s most progressive speciality coffee houses”. Say goodbye to soulless chain pubs, and enter the warm embrace of the Battersea Brewery, a micro-brewery offering an array of craft beers and the team’s own in-house brews. Say “ta-ta” sprawling supermarkets, and wander into the small but pleasing Battersea General Store, with its plastic-free offering and organic vegetables.

There’s a small contemporary community theatre, there’s a daring Japanese ramen eatery, there are huge modern art pieces dotted around the streets — you get the gist.

And yet, make no mistake — this is a project that is competing with the most desirable international real estate hotspots. For phase 3, also known as the Electric Boulevard, there will be 539 fabulous apartments with a curvaceous main building designed by Norman Foster, and another three flower-inspired buildings by famed architect Gehry.

Here, residents and visitors will get to enjoy panoramic views from one of Europe’s largest landscaped terraces, Battersea Roof Gardens. The terrace will feature picnic spots, sun decks and fitness areas, while lucky residents will be able to grow herbs, gather to watch a movie, barbeque or exercise while enjoying views of the English capital.

Despite the Shakespearean drama that is Brexit, the Middle East UHNWIs still poured a whopping $3.3 billion into London’s real estate market in 2018, according to Knight Frank’s 2019 Wealth Report.

And with new, somewhat avant-garde developments like Battersea Power Station, the next generation of Arab property buyer’s interest continues to be piqued.

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