Best known for its (closed) Exhibition Centre, Earl’s Court is not the sort of place you’d expect to attract million-pound investment. But it’s currently undergoing its biggest upheaval in over a century and this west London outpost is set to be a very different place in a couple of decades.
The last huge change in Earl’s Court came about as a result of the District Line opening in the 1860s. Developers moved in, built family houses then set about luring Londoners from nearby Chelsea to the quiet village.
It quickly morphed into a suburb, but the architecture remains largely the same. According to area reports released by estate agent Knight Frank, 67 per cent of Earl’s Court’s properties pre-date the year 1900. The market is totally dominated by Victorian flats and terraces, which made up 99 per cent of transactions from January 2014 to December 2015.
Traditionally, it’s always been seen as the poorer cousin of its much more affluent neighbours – Kensington and Chelsea – but all that is about to change. Starchitect Terry Farrell – a key figure of British postmodernism who designed Embankment Place and MI6’s headquarters – is behind The Earl’s Court Masterplan.
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It aims to pump a huge amount of cash into building new homes, shops, parks, offices and transport infrastructure over a period of 20 years, transforming 77 acres of space, building 7,500 new homes, 1m sqft of office space, 290,000 sqft of retail and 7.5 acres of parkland. Local tube stations would also see a cash injection of £38.2m, £5.5m will be used to improve bus services and £1m will be invested in cycle hubs, storage and lanes.
“The redevelopment of the Exhibition Centre is the largest development in Earl’s Court since 1890,” says David Fell, research analyst at Hamptons International. “It’s the largest Zone One development north of the river. The level of investment in the public realm and the creation of the first new high street for 60 years means the development has the potential to become a neighbourhood in its own right.”
Lillie Square – a mixed-use scheme by property company Capco, which is also responsible for recent improvements around Covent Garden – is a large piece of the puzzle. Due to be finished in 2019, the four acre site stretches from Lillie Road towards Fulham Broadway and runs alongside Brompton Cemetery.
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Centred around a traditional garden square, the first residents are moving in this year. Further up Lillie Road there’s also a Build-to-Rent scheme – a concept that’s all the rage in some quarters – called Peel Place, where flats are going for £900 per week.
Since 2007 there’s been an 87 per cent increase in house prices according to Hamptons, which accounts for the below average number of first time buyers, who in Earl’s Court make up just 15 per cent of the market compared to the London average of 27 per cent.
International buyers have increased, though, says Robert Swann of Foxtons, “attracted by the regeneration in the area and who potentially have children enrolled at the prestigious Imperial College.”
But there are still bargains to be had if you know where to look. “The buzz around Earl’s Court has cooled off slightly and in general, the demand for new build property has decreased,” says Will Watson at Middleton Advisors.
“This does offer buyers better value because developers are more likely to be flexible on their prices than before.”
Now may be the perfect time to go west and invest.
House prices Source: Zoopla
TRANSPORT Source: TfL
Time to Canary Wharf – 29 mins
Time to Liverpool Street – 28 mins
Nearest train station: Earl’s Court
Best Roads Source: Hamptons International
Most Expensive – The Little Boltons – £2.945m
Best Value – Hogarth Road – £553,194
The Exhibition Centre may be closed, but there’s still plenty to do and see in Earl’s Court. Go for a coffee in 50s cafe The Troubadour, a local favourite on Old Brompton Road, that’s also a deli, gallery and club, which has seen the likes of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Adele perform over the years. Go even further back in time just off Earl’s Court Road at Evans & Peel Detective Agency, a 1920s prohibition style speakeasy. For a bite to eat, try La Papardella, an Italian restaurant with generous portions, or Garnier (not the shampoo) on Earl’s Court Road, a Parisian-style brasserie serving up French classics. For honest heart-warming fare and a pint, head to The Blackbird a short walk away from the Tube station, a traditional pub in a former bank with high-ceilings, marble columns and homemade pies. The Finsborough Arms is also worth a visit, specialising in craft beers with a theatre upstairs.