With its silk curtains, a private cinema, and room service that brings food purported to be worthy of Michelin stars, One Hyde Park is the most expensive block of flats in the world. And after three years of traffic jams, London's most lavish residential tower finally opened its high-design doors yesterday, even though nearly half of its 86 apartments are still to be sold.
The luxury property's developers, Christian Candy and his brother Nick, treated 300 guests to a lavish spread cooked by the chef Heston Blumenthal. But while the block's £135m penthouse has been sold to an anonymous purchaser, the Candy brothers maintain the development is still only 60 per cent sold. In 2008, The Independent reported the building had sold a comparable percentage of properties.
"One Hyde Park continued to progress despite the global downturn," Richard Williams, director of the Candys' special-purpose development company in charge of the building, said. "We are very fortunate to have secured the planning consent for the development pre-credit crunch." Mr Williams said current sales equal £900m, with buyers mainly from the Middle East and Asia.
Yesterday's reception was attended by the Express newspapers' owner Richard Desmond, the entrepreneur James Caan, Lord Lloyd-Webber, Ozwald Boateng and Bernie Ecclestone. Nick Candy's girlfriend, the singer Holly Valance, and Christian's partner, Emily Crompton, were also there. Guests were treated to a drinks reception before moving to the adjacent Mandarin Oriental hotel for lunch, where the building's architects, Lord Rogers and Graham Stirk, spoke.
"The unique quality of this place is that it has one of the world's greatest parks on one side and Knightsbridge, one of London's best shopping areas, on the other making it one of the best sites in Europe," Lord Rogers told CNN. "It's a positive change. Apartments can deal with a site like this."
The property sits on a notorious Knightsbridge junction that has been riddled with traffic problems during the project's £250m construction. The brothers claim this is Transport for London's fault, who failed to implement agreed changes to the junction on time. "Today we are celebrating the opening of an exceptional residential development destined to become a world-renowned iconic landmark," said Christian Candy.
The developers, reportedly worth £1bn, were born and educated in Surrey. Legend has it that in 1995 they started out by buying a £122,000 flat in Earl's Court aided by a £6,000 loan from their grandmother. They sold it for £50,000 profit. They have since created luxury blocks in Chelsea and Belgravia. There have also been failures, including the proposed redevelopment of Chelsea Barracks where the Candys took the state-backed developer Qatari Diar to the High Court before pulling out. In 2008, at the height of the credit crunch, the Candys fell out with Icelandic bank Kaupthing, co-developer of a project at the former site of London's Middlesex Hospital. The brothers have since withdrawn from the project.
The brothers say One Hyde Park's penthouse, with its panoramic views of the city, was bought by someone making a casual inquiry via the internet on a weekday afternoon. While protecting the purchaser's anonymity, they claim he is male, and "not an Arab, not a Russian".
Meanwhile ordinary house developers are still facing the crunch, emphasising the disparity between the super-wealthy and the rest of the country. A Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors survey shows house prices continued to fall last month.
What you get for £6.5m
* A one-bedroom flat at One Hyde Park costs £6.5m, with the penthouse valued at £140m. Clients are paying around £6,000 per square foot, making it 'the most residence in the world'.
* Residents benefit from a private cinema, golf simulator, virtual games room and a car cleaning and valet service. There are eye-scanners in the lifts and panic rooms providing extra security.
* Flats boast automatic silk curtains which respond to low light levels and air conditioning linked to geothermal boreholes running 140m below street level.
* There is butler room service from the adjacent Mandarin Oriental hotel's restaurants, which are overseen by Heston Blumenthal and Daniel Boulud. Restaurant staff access One Hyde Park via an underground tunnel.Reuse content