Property: A real riverside community

Hot Spot Bermondsey, south London

Sir Norman Foster's glittering new headquarters for the Greater London Authority effectively ushers in a new era for Bermondsey.

Instead of leather goods, spices, coffee and tea stored in brick warehouses, mayors and assorted bureaucrats will be ensconced in a pounds 20m riverside property with glass lifts, a glazed facade, and meeting rooms with views overlooking the river.

These days the Thames is for watching, not working, and Bermondsey and its many warehouses are well on the way to becoming overwhelmingly residential.

Some residential pioneers set up home in SE1 as far back as the Seventies, according to Tom Marshall of Cluttons Daniel Smith, but the area only recently started "buzzing with architecturally pleasing residential and commercial buildings, trendy restaurants, and museums and galleries, such as the OXO Tower, Zandra Rhodes's Fashion Museum, Conran's Gastrodome and the Tate Bankside".

Warehouse conversions and luxury newbuilds dominate the riverside area along Shad Thames and extending from Tower Bridge eastward to St Saviour's Dock. The multi-level penthouse atop the listed Anchor Brewery is still seeking a buyer for pounds 3.95m or a tenant for pounds 3,500 per week.

Flats typically cost one-tenth of that selling price. Elsewhere in Bermondsey, other trendy new or converted flats vie for attention in a mixed bag that includes a few period homes, school and church conversions, and live-work units in premises that once housed tanners and other artisans and craftspeople.

New developments tend to offer parking, hi-tech security, roof terraces and leisure and fitness facilities. Nicholson's massive Butler's & Colonial Wharf warehouse conversion includes new flats and town houses on a site featuring underground parking and a private courtyard.

Bermondsey is no longer the preserve of City financiers: "With this area now more established and the Jubilee Line coming, creatives and media who work in the West End are moving in. Access was previously too difficult for them," says Carl Williams of Chesterton's. Bermondsey is also attracting "empty nesters buying flats for their college-age children, and executives wanting a weekend London base".

Williams notes that most buyers "want a stylish flat ready for immediate occupancy, so a 10-year-old flat neglected by tenant occupiers and needing doing up will cost less".

The least expensive properties are council flats in buildings which have been improved by the council, according to Roger Smith, of Michael Kalmar estate agents: "Devon Mansions, for example, is probably 50 per cent privately owned now. Many owners are investors."

Matthew Page watched Bermondsey change for the better during his nine years with estate agents Alex Neil: "The council estates have completely changed, and the sense that they are dangerous is now a big myth. Bermondsey is a real community with friendly people and some fantastic characters."

Although some properties cost pounds 1m-plus, "I do not think there will be huge jumps in prices," says Kalmar's Smith. Chesterton's Carl Williams notes that "since the new year, prices are starting to edge up again, but buyer and vendor expectations are well balanced".

Robert Liebman

The Low-Down

Prices and Properties: Think square feet rather than number of rooms. Chesterton's notes that riverside flats can sell for pounds 400 per square foot. Away from the river, newbuild commands pounds 275 per square foot, and you can save an additional pounds 25 per square foot with a two or three-year old flat in Boss House. Shell apartments of 1,000 square feet in Tyers Gateway sell for pounds 170-pounds 190,000. Bermondsey Exchange has larger units (1,180- 1,777 square feet) at pounds 260-pounds 295,000. Berkeley's Saffron Wharf prices range from pounds 435,000 to pounds 615,000, and its Jacobs Island, Mill Street starts at pounds 129,500. Two-bedroom ex-council flats on the Dickens Estate sell for pounds 65,000 and can be let for pounds 200 per week.

Shell versus finished: A 750-square-foot flat with balcony in Lantern House, Bermondsey Street sells for pounds 145,000 as a shell and pounds 170,000 finished.

Transport: The Jubilee Line station will be at the junction of Jamaica Road and Keeton's Road, in zone 2. London Bridge is zone 1.

The Council is Managing: Southwark council tax is pounds 524 for Band A and pounds 1,573 for Band H.

Shopping and Dining: Chesterton's Carl Williams notes that "the ground floors of many new buildings have restaurants or other retail outlets". In general, the area's restaurants (or their restaurateurs) are more famous than numerous.

Estate Agents: Alex Neil (0171-234 0288); Cluttons Daniel Smith (0171- 407 3669); Michael Kalmar (0171-403 0600); Chesterton's (0171-357 7999). Butler's & Colonial Wharf show apartment (07000 426566); selling agents are De Groot Collis (0171-235 8090) and FDP Savills (0171-940 6500). Lynda Clark and Amanda Heaps of specialist agency Trading Spaces handle loft conversions and "weird, wonderful or unusual properties" (0171-277 4994).

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