First come the artists...

A creative revolution is taking place in Deptford, Del Boy's old stamping ground in south London
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The Independent Online

Italian Vogue calls it a "bohemian hot spot". Others describe it as Britain's answer to the Left Bank. Where is this hip new urban zone? None other than Deptford, SE8. A run-down slice of Del Boy's London might seem an unlikely artisans' quarter. The area still bears scars from Second World War bombing, while scruffy trading estates pay homage to an industrial past shaped by its docklands location. Yet local MP Joan Ruddock says the Parisian Left Bank is "absolutely the feel" Deptford wants to create.

Italian Vogue calls it a "bohemian hot spot". Others describe it as Britain's answer to the Left Bank. Where is this hip new urban zone? None other than Deptford, SE8. A run-down slice of Del Boy's London might seem an unlikely artisans' quarter. The area still bears scars from Second World War bombing, while scruffy trading estates pay homage to an industrial past shaped by its docklands location. Yet local MP Joan Ruddock says the Parisian Left Bank is "absolutely the feel" Deptford wants to create.

Reinvention is the name of the game for urban areas seeking regeneration. So Deptford is busy cultivating its cultural roots. Around 2,000 artists work locally and the area's resurgence as a creative hub is proving a catalyst for property investment.

Deptford's artsy credentials were hugely boosted when the Laban Dance Centre opened in a stunning £24m building designed by Herzog & Meuron, the Swiss architects behind the Tate Modern conversion. Cockpit Arts recently moved its crafts studios from WC1 to Deptford. Talent is also flourishing in Acme's 400 studios in Childers Street and at Harold Works, on Creekside, a former engineering works. Hales Gallery, a go-ahead contemporary art venue, run by Paul Hedge and Paul Maslin (where celebrated Brit-artists Jake & Dinos Chapman launched their first show) and the Museum of Installation, dedicated to installation art, are also putting Deptford on London's cultural map.

Developers, too, are actively engaged in the regeneration process. St James Homes is behind One SE8, a spanking new residential development with 450 apartments, a health club, swimming pool and residents' restaurant. Others have turned their attention to historic landmarks, refurbishing them as design-conscious residential apartments. Mumfords Mill, at Deptford Creek, is a case in point. The architectural significance of the Italianate-style Grade II-listed Victorian mill, rated by English Heritage as "one of Britain's finest flour mills", is apparent when you consider other designs by its architect, Sir Aston Webb, which include Buckingham Palace's eastern façade, Admiralty Arch and the Victoria & Albert museum's Cromwell Road frontage.

CYZ, a niche developer specialising in industrial conversions, worked with the architects OSEL to retain the Mill's brickwork and stone signage, while creating 36 smart warehouse apartments. Huge circular windows, echoing Webb's originals, have been added to the Main Mill's upper floors while the calm, spacious interiors are fitted out in swish oak, and ceramic flooring with under-floor heating. Kitchens by Swedish specialist, Kvanum, bathrooms with high-pressure showers and Arne Jacobsen-designed Vola brassware, living spaces with thermic radiators (tall, slim vertical designs), and ironmongery by Jasper Morrison all typify the high-spec detail.

It seems fitting that Kurt Fernandes, 29, an architect and design consultant for furniture specialist, Vitra, was the first buyer. "It's a fantastic building in a wonderful location," he says. "I've always loved Greenwich for its history and architecture and longed to live in a riverside warehouse apartment. The whole vibe about Deptford is good - the restaurants, cafes and the artistic community - and it's an easy journey to my office in Clerkenwell."

"I've often admired CYZ's warehouse conversions in Clerkenwell," he continues. "Their standards and attention to detail are second to none so I had no qualms about buying off-plan. I'm also familiar with the interior designers, Johnson Naylor, and knew the apartments would be very high-spec. Architecture is such a big part of my life that I phoned the agents as soon as they were appointed," he says. "Being first on the list, I was allowed to choose my apartment. But the 10 apartments initially released were in the Long Mill. I wanted to be in the Main Mill as it has better river frontage. The agent rang CYZ who offered me one on the fourth floor. I declined because I wanted to be on the fifth floor. Eventually they agreed and we exchanged contracts within three weeks."

The gamble succeeded spectacularly. Fernandes paid £360,000 plus £25,000 for a parking space in March 2003. When he moves into the two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment next month it will be worth around £425,000. "I feel it was a bargain," he says. "And I've got a fantastic view of Canary Wharf, the Dome, the Swiss Re tower and the London Eye."

He eagerly awaits the installation of artworks commissioned locally by CYZ for the Mill's internal courtyard at a cost of more than £40,000. A bronze 1.5m tall Wheat Spire sculpture by Victoria Rance and Geoff Rigden's bronze manhole covers promise to be eye-catchers; as do the sculptural gates by Stephen Lewis, for which planning permission is currently being sought. "It's very rare for a developer to pay hard cash commissioning and buying art specifically for a development," says Nick Hall of art agency Andersson Hall. "Many want to borrow art for launches but are never this keen to support local industry."

Art is so integral to the development that tomorrow's launch is marked by a public show by 10 local artists including renowned abstract painters, Clyde Hopkins and John McLean. Many will be present at the invitation-only preview evening. The exhibition remains open for a week during which the Mill's show apartment can also be viewed.

It's widely acknowledged that artists are often the harbingers of positive change in an urban area. Coffee bars follow. Then smart new residential developments. Many think it can't be long before Deptford becomes as hip as Hoxton. Now what would Del Boy make of that?

The Main Mill at Mumfords Mill launches tomorrow with an invitation-only art exhibition. For tickets call 020-8691 7541. The public show runs to 17 September (noon to 4pm). Prices for two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments in this phase start from £350,000. Service charge approx. £2.20 per sq ft. Parking space: £25,000. www.themillgreenwich.co.uk

Hurford Salvi Carr: 020 7791 7071

DTZ Residential: 020-7710 8068.

CYZ Ltd: 020 7336 8888.

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