On the right tracks

Eurostar's arrival in St Pancras will work magic for the local house prices, predicts Nick Lloyd Jones
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The Independent Online

Eurostar's recent announcement that it plans to transfer its cross-Channel London terminal from Waterloo International to St Pancras in 2007 should lead to a rise in property prices in the formerly rather shabby King's Cross area.

Eurostar's recent announcement that it plans to transfer its cross-Channel London terminal from Waterloo International to St Pancras in 2007 should lead to a rise in property prices in the formerly rather shabby King's Cross area.

This was certainly the case in Southwark when the company opened its award-winning terminal at Waterloo in 1993. In came droves of tourists and day-trippers who flocked to its riverside bars and restaurants. Suddenly, Waterloo was hip and happening again, with its theatres, cinemas, galleries and concert halls enjoying a new lease of life. There were new attractions, too, such as Tate Modern and the London Eye. Mini-street markets sprang up, buskers entertained the crowds, a new carnival-style atmosphere was ushered in and properties in the area became much sought after.

And now Eurostar looks set to work the same regenerative magic across town at the new St Pancras terminal from where it is promising to attract even more visitors to London by cutting the travelling time to Paris and Brussels by 20 minutes.

Paul Charles, Eurostar's director of communications, has high hopes. "We expect the impact to be even more dramatic at St Pancras than it was at Waterloo," he says. "That's because the area hasn't been touched for years and there is so much more space to develop there. And I really do think that a knock-on effect of the new terminal opening will be a substantial rise in property prices in the area."

There is certainly no shortage of developers looking to cash in on this anticipated boom. Blocks of luxury apartments are sprouting up all over the place. Regent Quarter, for instance, is a new commercial and residential development on a six-acre site opposite King's Cross Station. It comprises offices, shops and 142 residential properties (see picture below)- a mixture of new units as well as refurbished Georgian and Victorian buildings. Work started in 2002 and the site is due for completion next year. Many of the properties - from one-bed flats for £315,000 up to two-bed penthouse apartments for £605,000 - have already been snapped up. But FPD Savills (0207 321 4673) is offering two-bed warehouse-style apartments in Albion Buildings at the heart of the development. These are priced from £450,000 to £465,000.

Directly across York Way from Regent Quarter, on a 67-acre derelict wasteland site known as King's Cross Central, the Argent development group has submitted detailed proposals to Camden's planning department for a £2bn mixed-use regeneration scheme that, subject to approval, could see the construction of more than 1,800 new homes.

There are even plans afoot to residentially develop a section of St Pancras Station itself - a Grade I listed masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture designed by George Gilbert Scott in the 1840s. St Pancras Chambers, also the work of Scott, occupies the site of the former Midland Grand Hotel that was added on to the station as an afterthought. And the Manhattan Loft Corporation has applied for planning permission to restore it to its former splendour by transforming it into a 244-bed luxury hotel with 68 residential penthouse apartments.

All this regeneration work looks likely to enhance the value of existing housing stock in the area. Lee Matthews, branch manager of local estate agent Banbury Ball (0207 833 4466), says: "We welcome the new luxury developments and the coming of Eurostar as they are both going to attract new people to the area, and that's bound to drive up all the property prices around here."

Not everyone, though, can afford to buy luxury apartments. So, has Matthews any tips for those on tighter budgets? "There are still a few bargains around, particularly in former local authority properties. We recently sold a nice two-bed flat in one of those blocks just to the south of St Pancras, off the Gray's Inn Road, for £240,000.'

Matthews also tips the Brunswick Centre, just around the corner in Bloomsbury, as a safe investment and he is currently advertising a two-bed, split-level apartment there for £330,000. The Brunswick Centre was designed in 1959 by architect Patrick Hodgkinson and is something of a local landmark with its giant greenhouse windows and tiered concrete terracing. It has had a chequered history and, despite its Grade II listed status, has become a little down-at-heel. But all that looks set to be rectified, thanks to a £22m facelift currently underway. And this, combined with its proximity to the new Eurostar terminal and all the other regeneration projects that are taking place in the area, would seem to bode well for its future.

KING'S CROSS: THE KEY FACTS

* Excellent transport links, with trains to Paris by 2007, the date for the planned opening of the new Eurostar terminal at St Pancras.

* Location, location, location: King's Cross is only a mile from the City and the West End. And Bloomsbury, with its stunning Georgian houses and distinguished literary associations, is a short stroll round the corner.

* Traffic-clogged and polluted roads are a real issue in the area - but this doesn't seem to be deterring buyers from buying new-build off-plan.

*With a long-standing problem with drug-pushers and prostitution, King's Cross still has its seamier side.

* The area is home to treasured academic institutions, including the British Museum and British Library.

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