From Sleazy to Stylish, London’s King’s Cross Is Booming
When Nicky Fuller moved to London in the early 1980s to study at London University, she lived in dorms in the King’s Cross neighborhood. It was something of a culture shock for the 17-year-old, who became accustomed to avoiding street sex workers and drug dealers in what was once London’s most notorious red-light district.
Some two decades later, Ms. Fuller returned to King’s Cross. From her warehouse apartment, she has had a front-row seat for the neighborhood’s $ 4.09 billion reinvention. A combination of cutting-edge architecture, upscale restaurants and stores, and hundreds of apartments on a meticulously planned, 67-acre industrial site at the heart of the neighborhood has turned a onetime no-go zone into a hipper alternative to Prime Central London. Real-estate prices in the area have comfortably outperformed the rest of Central London during the pandemic.
Back in 1999, Ms. Fuller, who runs a marketing company, paid $ 407,330 for her two-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 gated and had 24-hour security.
“They thought I was absolutely bonkers,” Ms. Fuller said. “At the time there were prostitutes at the end of the street, drug dealers. It was a very, very rough area and incredibly seedy. ” Ms. Fuller, however, was undeterred. She had fallen in love with the apartment, and felt familiar enough with the King’s Cross’ downsides to know what she was letting herself in for.
In those days, the land behind King’s Cross’ railway stations was an industrial wasteland, crisscrossed by railway tracks and filled with disused Victorian warehouses and yards. But two years later, in 2001, the British developer Argent signed a deal to redevelop the site. Work started in 2008, and the first apartments were sold off-plan in 2011. Since then, 1,283 apartments have been built, and a fully functioning neighborhood has grown up around them.
Granary Square, lined with old warehouse buildings once used to store cargo unloaded from boats using the adjacent canal, is now lined with restaurants and bars and filled with a series of fountains. Coal Drops Yard, where coal mined in the north of England was once stored and which was the epicenter of London’s rave culture during the 1990s, has been redesigned by architect Thomas Heatherwick into an upscale shopping and dining mall.
King’s Cross also has an art house movie theater, a nightclub, and several public parks. Central St. Martins, the famous fashion college, has its campus there. Work on offices for Google is under way.
The redevelopment has had a dramatic impact on property prices both within the 67-acre site and on its fringes. Ms. Fuller, now 58, said that one of her neighbors recently sold their two-bedroom apartment for about $ 1.5 million.
Research by house price analyst LonRes shows that across all price points in the neighborhood, sale prices have increased from an average of $ 1.16 million in 2013, when it first started monitoring the area, to $ 1.78 million in 2021.
The LonRes data also shows how King’s Cross has been buffeted by the impact of political change. Between 2013 and 2016, average prices grew strongly, peaking at $ 1.84 million in 2016. The Brexit referendum put a halt to growth, followed by the pandemic, and by 2020, average prices had fallen 20% to $ 1.47 million. They have since bounced back strongly, a change that the research indicates is due to greater buyer demand for larger apartments with outside space.
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Looking at prices on a per-square-foot basis, the average sale price in King’s Cross so far this year has been $ 1,947, slightly above the Central London average of $ 1,857. Prices per square foot have increased 2% over the past year, according to LonRes data, while across Central London they are down 1.9%.
Robert Evans, Argent’s joint managing partner, said that in 2011 when the first homes were sold on the regeneration site, the average price-per-square foot was around $ 1,021. Today that has more than doubled to around $ 2,247 per square foot.
Currently on sale are apartments in the Cadence building, starting at $ 2.25 million for an 902-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment. At the top end, there is a three-bedroom, 2,829-square-foot penthouse at Gasholders, a curved building within the original iron frames of a group of Victorian gas containers, listed for $ 9.6 million.
Graciela Loveday, sales manager at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Kay & Co. estate agents, said buyers have been a mix of investors from across 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 thick of things. “People are coming back to cities, and it has got a very specific vibe,” she said. “It’s cooler than Prime Central London. It did have an appalling reputation, but when I walk people around, they are pleasantly surprised. ”
Building work will continue at King’s Cross for the next three to four years, said Mr. Evans. Another 460 apartments are either under construction or in the pipeline; there are plans for three small open spaces, plus a theater run by the veteran movie and stage director Sir Nicholas Hynter.
Russell Abrahams and Michelle Smaje love watching their neighborhood evolve. They spent $ 4.09 million on an off-plan 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 north London suburbs at the time. Their Gasholders apartment was ready in June 2018 and Mr. Abrahams, 60, a lawyer and property investor, and Mrs. Smaje, 55, who does volunteer charity work, began to split their time between King’s Cross and north London.
Mr. Abrahams says he particularly loves the “inspiring” urban view of railway 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 during the first year of the pandemic when she and Mr. Abrahams opted to stay in the apartment full time with their cockapoo dog, Macie, and a changing roster of their children.
“It is friendlier than the suburbs, which you would not imagine,” she said. “We have made some very good friends, and although I do remember King’s Cross before the redevelopment, Argent has created an environment where you do feel safe.”
Financially, the investment has been less favorable. The Brexit referendum was held within weeks of the couple reserving their apartment and by the time they took possession, Mr. Abrahams estimates it was worth around $ 2.72 million.
“We did not care,” he said. “We saw this as somewhere that would be incredibly exciting to be a part of, and by now it is probably worth £ 3 million [$4.09 million] again. ”
This kind of calculation is meaningless for the couple since they intend to hold on to their apartment. Once their respective children are fully settled, they said they would consider moving in full time.
Ms. Fuller is also staying in King’s Cross for the long haul. “There is a real energy and dynamism,” she said. “Every day there is something new and different to see.”
$ 6.26 million
A two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in St. Pancras Chambers, a renovated Victorian gothic former railway hotel just west of King’s Cross Station. The apartment has arched windows and an original painted ceiling. It measures 1,600 square feet. Agent: Sotheby’s International Realty
$ 10.07 million
A three-bedroom, three-bathroom penthouse apartment within Gasholders, a landmark new building in King’s Cross built within the cast iron frames of a group of Victorian gasholders. The 2,829-square-foot apartment is set on the 10th and 11th floors of Gasholders and has a private roof terrace. Agent: Knight Frank
Offers in excess of $ 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 feet and is laid out with a self-contained apartment at basement level. It has two terraces. Agent: Chestertons
When Nicky Fuller moved to London in the early 1980s to study at London University, she lived in dorms in the King’s Cross neighborhood. It was something of a culture shock for the 17-year-old, who became accustomed to avoiding street sex workers and drug dealers in what was once London’s most notorious red-light district. Some…