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The Americans are coming to Battersea, and it’s no wonder

Timothy Barber
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WHEN do you know if an area is going up in the world? Normally an influx of luxury hotels and award-winning restaurants should be a good enough sign, but the arrival of the embassy of the world’s most powerful country might just trump those. The American Embassy may not be due to open in the Nine Elms area of Battersea until 2017, but with its futuristic glass cube design, defensive ramparts and moat and $1bn budget, it’ll be bringing cutting edge architecture and modernity to an area already in transformation.

Occupying the inside of the Thames’s Chelsea bend and lacking Tube access, Battersea has for a long time been something of an anomaly in the South London landscape. A bit more metropolitan than nearby Wandsworth, it has smart, leafy streets and beautiful Battersea Park at its core, ringed with grand Victorian mansions of the kind you’d expect to find over the river in Chelsea. Yet its smart streets sit in close proximity to more dilapidated areas – after all, its most famous landmark is not the park but a disused power station, and its eastern fringes, where it joins up with Lambeth, have been historically deprived destinations.

That’s changing. Even before the US embassy arrives, Nine Elms, the mile-long area running past the power station and on to Vauxhall, is benefiting from investment and change. One example is a development known simply – some might say annoyingly – as “This Space”, a conversion into sleek modern flats of the 1960s concrete building that once housed South Bank University. With large communal lobby spaces, an incorporated working theatre and a calm inner courtyard, it’s the essence of urban cool.

And what about those hotels? Head west along the river and you’ll get to the famous London Heliport, where luxury hotel company Von Essen is opening its first London outlet this summer in the Bridges Wharf development. Next door, the newly-opened Rafayel Hotel mixes swish design with strong eco credentials.

In between, there’s the maze of pretty streets and avenues that make up much of Battersea. While you have to go to Vauxhall or South Lambeth if you want to get on the Underground, you’ve got Queenstown Road and Battersea Park and, most importantly, Clapham Junction overland stations to whiz you just about anywhere, while the shops of the King’s Road are a quick walk over the river.

Battersea’s also something of a foodie paradise with plenty of inviting little delicatessens, and some excellent gastropubs and local restaurants, two of which – tapas haven Lola Rojo and Argentine steak specialist Santa Maria del Sur – were in competition in the last series of Gordon Ramsay’s F Word.

Once you’ve shopped and eaten your way around the locale, you can retreat to the calm of Battersea Park. With its pagodas, river views, lakes and stretching green spaces, its one of the capital’s most relaxing park areas. The Park also brings Battersea its share of culture, with the Pump House gallery playing host to exhibitions and events including the Decorative Antiques & Textiles fair, and next month’s Affordable Art Fair.

THIS SPACE
Overlooking the Nine Elms area from Wandsworth Road, This Space is a conversion of a building that used to host South Bank University. Out go lecture halls and office – though a working theatre remains – and in come modern flats with panoramic views and slick design.
From £240,000 for one-bedroom, and £320,000 for two-bedroom apartments. 

Call Mount Anvil on 0845 180 0004 or visit www.mountanvil.com

BRIDGES WHARF
The stylish development that includes von Essen’s new Verta Hotel has river-view apartments from £475,000 and a splendid penthouse (pictured) for £2.5m.

Call 0845 638 5005 or visit www.bridges-wharf.com.

PRINCE OF WALES DRIVE
Light, airy and rather cool, this split-level three bedroom flat includes a sizeable living room leading to a roof terrace, for £795,000.

Call Foxtons on 020 7801 1111. www.foxtons.co.uk.