From dingy to stylish, London’s King’s Cross is flourishing


When Nicky Fuller moved to London in the early 1980s to study at London University, she lived in dormitories in the King’s Cross district. It was something of a culture shock for the 17-year-old who got used to avoiding street sex workers and drug dealers in what was once London’s most infamous red-light district.

About two decades later, Ms. Fuller back to King’s Cross. From her warehouse apartment, she has had a front-row space for the neighborhood’s $ 4.09 billion reinvention. A combination of cutting-edge architecture, upscale restaurants and shops and hundreds of apartments on a carefully planned, 67-acre industrial site in the heart of the neighborhood has transformed a one-off no-fly zone into a hipper alternative to Prime Central London. Property prices in the area have comfortably fared better than the rest of central London during the pandemic.

Back in 1999, Mrs. Fuller, who runs a marketing firm, paid $ 407,330 for her one-bedroom apartment in a converted ice warehouse overlooking the Regent’s Canal, which runs through the neighborhood. Her friends were not impressed, even though the building was closed and had 24-hour security.

Ice Wharf, an apartment development overlooking the Regent’s Canal, King’s Cross.

PHOTO: CHESTERTONS

“They thought I was completely crazy,” Ms. said. Fuller. ‘Back then, there were prostitutes at the end of the street, drug dealers. It was a very, very rough area and incredibly dingy. ” Mrs. Fuller, however, was not deterred. She had fallen in love with the apartment, and felt familiar enough with the disadvantages of the King’s Cross to know what she was getting herself into.


King’s Cross had a well-deserved reputation as a red-light district in the 1980s.

PHOTO: ANTONIN CERMAK / FAIRFAX MEDIA / GETTY IMAGES

In those days, the land behind King’s Cross’ train stations was an industrial wasteland, crossed by railroad tracks and filled with disused Victorian warehouses and shipyards. But two years later, in 2001, British developer Argent signed an agreement to rebuild the site. The work started in 2008, and the first apartments were sold without a plan in 2011. Since then, 1,283 apartments have been built and a fully functioning neighborhood has grown up around them.

Granary Square, surrounded by old warehouses that were once used to store cargo from boats using the adjacent canal, is now lined with restaurants and bars and filled with a variety of fountains. Coal Drops Yard, once housed in the north of England and once the epicenter of London’s rave culture in the 1990s, has been redesigned by architect Thomas Heatherwick into an upscale shopping and dining center.

King’s Cross also has an art house cinema, a nightclub and several public parks. Central St. Martins, the famous fashion college, has its campus there. Work on Google’s offices is underway.

The redevelopment has had a dramatic impact on property prices both within the 67-hectare plot and on the outskirts. Ms. Fuller, now 58, said one of her neighbors recently sold their two-bedroom apartment for about $ 1.5 million.

Studies by house price analyst LonRes show that across all price points in the neighborhood, sales prices have risen from an average of $ 1.16 million in 2013, when they first began monitoring the area, to $ 1.78 million in 2021.

The LonRes data also show how King’s Cross has been affected by the impact of political change. Between 2013 and 2016, average prices grew sharply, peaking at $ 1.84 million in 2016. The Brexit vote put an end to growth, followed by the pandemic, and by 2020, average prices had fallen 20% to $ 1.47 million. They have since returned sharply, a change that research points to is due to greater buyer demand for larger apartments with outdoor space.

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Looking at prices on a square meter basis, the average selling price in King’s Cross so far this year has been $ 1,947, slightly above the average in central London of $ 1,857. Prices per square foot have risen 2% over the past year, according to LonRes data, while those in central London have fallen 1.9%.

Robert Evans, Argentina’s joint managing partner, said that in 2011, when the first homes were sold at the regeneration site, the average price per square meter was square meters around $ 1,021. Today, it has more than doubled to around $ 2,247 per share. square feet.

Currently, apartments are for sale in the Cadence building, starting at $ 2.25 million for a 902-square-foot two-bedroom apartment. At the top end is a three-bedroom, 2,829-square-foot penthouse on Gasholders, a curved building within the original iron frames of a group of Victorian gas tanks, listed for $ 9.6 million.

Gas holders are located between Regent’s Canal and Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross.

PHOTO: JOHN STURROCK

Granary Square is a public square in the heart of King’s Cross. People gather on stairs leading from the square to the adjacent Regent’s Canal to catch the sun.

PHOTO: JOHN STURROCK

Graciela Loveday, Sales Manager at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Kay & Co. Realtors, said buyers have been a mix of investors from all over Asia, Google and Meta employees “from all over the world”, parents of students studying in the area, and local downsizers looking for a home in the middle of things. “People are returning to the cities and it’s got a very specific vibe,” she said. “It’s cooler than Prime Central London. It had a shocking reputation, but when I walk around with people, they are pleasantly surprised.”

Construction work will continue at King’s Cross for the next three to four years, Mr. Evans. A further 460 apartments are either under construction or in the pipeline; there are plans for three small open spaces, plus a theater run by veteran film and stage director Sir Nicholas Hynter.

Russell Abrahams and Michelle Smaje with their dog, Macie, in their apartment in King’s Cross’ Gasholders building.

PHOTO: VANESSA BERBERIAN TO WALL STREET JOURNAL

Russell Abrahams and Michelle Smaje love to watch their neighborhoods evolve. They spent $ 4.09 million on an unplanned three-bedroom, 1,549-square-foot apartment in Gasholders in 2016.


The couple, who have five grown children between them, were living separately in the suburbs of north London at the time. Their Gas Holder’s apartment was ready in June 2018, and Mr. Abrahams, 60, a lawyer and real estate investor, and Mrs Smaje, 55, who do voluntary charity work, began sharing their time between King’s Cross and north London.

Mr. Abrahams says he especially loves the “inspiring” urban view of railroad tracks from their second-floor balcony. Mrs Smaje says she likes the “buzz and excitement” of the neighborhood and the sense of community she found with her new neighbors in the first year of the pandemic when she and Mr Abrahams chose to stay in the apartment full time with their kakapo. dog, Macie and a changing list of their children.

These striking circular apartment buildings are housed within the original iron frames of Victorian gas containers, or Gas Holders, at King’s Cross.

PHOTO: JOHN STURROCK

“It’s friendlier than the suburbs, which you would not imagine,” she said. “We have made some very good friends, and although I remember King’s Cross before the rebuilding, Argent has created an environment where one feels safe.”

Financially, the investment has been less favorable. The Brexit vote was held within a few weeks after the couple booked their apartment, and when they took possession, Mr Abrahams estimates it was worth about $ 2.72 million.

“We didn’t care,” he said. “We saw this as a place that would be incredibly exciting to be a part of, and eventually it’s probably worth £ 3 million. [$4.09 million] again.”

This kind of calculation is pointless for the couple as they intend to stick around in their apartment. Once their respective children are completely in place, they said they would consider moving full time.

Ms. Fuller also stays in King’s Cross for a long time. “There is a real energy and dynamism,” she said. “Every day there is something new and different to see.”

LISTER

St. Pancras Chambers

PHOTO: SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

$ 6.26 million

An apartment with two bedrooms and two bathrooms in St. Pancras Chambers, a renovated Victorian Gothic former railway hotel just west of King’s Cross Station. The apartment has arched windows and original painted ceiling. It measures 1,600 square meters. Agent: Sotheby’s International Realty

Gas holders

PHOTO: RIDDER FRANK

$ 10.07 million

A penthouse apartment with three bedrooms and three bathrooms in Gasholders, a landmark new building in King’s Cross built within the cast iron frames of a group of Victorian gas holders. The 2,829 square meter apartment is located on the 10th and 11th floors of Gasholders and has a private roof terrace. Agent: Knight Frank

King’s Cross townhouse

PHOTO: CHESTERTONS

Offer of over $ 3.4 million

A six-bedroom townhouse located within a few minutes walk of King’s Cross’s stations and Argent’s regeneration site. The property measures 2,604 square meters and is furnished with an independent apartment in the basement. It has two terraces. Agent: Chestertons

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