For decades, wealthy shoppers were forced to avert their eyes from the architectural carbuncle of Bowater House as they swept in and out of Harvey Nichols. As the London property market burnt white hot, developers realised that the stunning views afforded from this unloved 1950s office block, marooned amid some of the world's most desirable real estate, were wasted on the ordinary mortals who laboured within.
Now demolished and with work on the foundations only just under way, the four apartment blocks that will replace Bowater House are set to break records for the most expensive dwellings ever sold in London.
Four penthouses at the new Lord Rogers-designed One Hyde Park are reported to be on the market for £84m while the cheapest will cost £4m. Each penthouse boasts 20,000sq ft in floor space, panoramic views of the Serpentine and the ultimate in luxurious interior design. Interest in the building is said to be "off the scale" with demand for the flats.
Ed Lewis, of Savills, one of the estate agents contracted to sell the development's 86 flats, declined to discuss details of how many had been sold off plan or to whom, but he said the company was "very pleased" by the initial sales. "The London market is sensational," he said. "It is awash with money both from the City and those who have benefited from the UK's success, but also international money. As well as strong demand there is a supply shortage which means exceptional properties like this can expect to achieve good prices."
Much of the excitement surrounding the project has been generated by the involvement of Nick and Christian Candy, two thirtysomething brothers from Surrey who mastermind their property empire from tax exile in Monaco. A recent presentation by the pair noted that property prices in Knightsbridge, Kensington, Chelsea and Belgravia had comfortably surpassed those of the most exclusive parts of Manhattan, Hong Kong and Paris.
While apartments around Central Park might be expected to command £1,400 per sq ft, £1,800 in South Island or just £1,200 in the 6th arrondissement, in Belgravia they were regularly changing hands for £2,750.
The Candys have been contracted by the project's developers, the Guernsey-based Project Grande, to act as interior designers and development managers. They pride themselves on easing the burdens on their clients with gadgets such as the 360-degree video screen/mirror which allows the owner to examine themselves from the back with the help of a time-delay.
The reaction to One Hyde Park has not been universally positive. The Greater London Authority raised concerns over the developers' proposals to meet the Mayor's affordable housing requirements and described the low-rise plan as a "missed opportunity" to increase the number of central London homes.
But demand for new-build luxury apartments in London has now overtaken that of other major cities.
Buyers are turning their backs on the mansions of Holland Park and Eaton Square where parking may be limited and interiors unsuited to the modern tastes for light and stunning views, according to Mr Lewis.Reuse content