Believe it or not, Paddington, synonymous for so long with its eponymous cartoon bear and its fantastic transport links, is one of the most undervalued places in Prime Central London.
Within walking distance to Hyde Park, Oxford Circus and smart neighbourhoods like Mayfair and Knightsbridge, it’s nevertheless not traditionally seen as a great residential location.
But it could have been so different. There was a time when it competed with Belgravia to be London’s most desirable place to live. “Copies of John Nash’s Regents Park villas attracted London’s first self-made millionaires, while Belgravia was favoured by those with royal connections,” explains David Fell, research analyst at Hamptons International.
“But the arrival of Paddington station in the 1850s changed the area as hotels, guest houses and offices moved in. Affluent Londoners retreated to the West End, where they stayed until they started returning in the 1990s.”
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The area is also something of a haven for modern housing, as it was the centre of the post-war housing boom, being home to one of the first big luxury developments in London for 50 years. Once Victorian terraces fell out of favour in the 1960s, a number of contemporary garden squares were built in the area, with underground parking, that still prove popular to this day, according to Fell.
Its reputation as a transport hub prevails and little wonder. It sits on the Circle, Bakerloo, Hammersmith & City and District lines on the Tube, the Great Western mainline and it’s the terminus for the Heathrow Express. In late 2018, Crossrail – or the Elizabeth Line as it’s been renamed – will also be running through the station and the anticipation means house prices continue to grow at a steady pace, despite stamp duty hikes and Brexit jitters.
“This is due in no small part to the consistently high rental demand and regeneration providing optimism and opportunity in the medium to long term,” says Arun Lal, sales manager at Fraser & Co estate agents, which, incidentally, has just moved into new offices in Paddington Basin, where a number of slick new projects are underway.
The Lancasters, billed as a rival to One Hyde Park, was a landmark housing development for the area, as is Merchant Square, which has a 42-storey tower in the pipeline. Taylor Wimpey is spearheading a smaller development of 123 homes, starting at £975,000, at Paddington Exchange and a £775m proposal by property tycoon Irvine Sellers was approved at the end of last year, which will feature at its heart a £2m art piazza and a 19-storey glass cube from The Shard’s architect Renzo Piano.
The planned redevelopment of Whiteleys, a tired shopping centre in nearby Queensway, could turn it into “the Covent Garden of the west”, says Anthony Pears, from estate agent Lurot Brand, which achieved a record sale in Hyde Park Gardens Mews at £2,326psqft recently. “We seem to get interest at a new record high every time we bring a property on,” he adds.
The research team over at JLL say that, despite the flurry of high end development, demand is strong. The agent expects residential sale prices – and especially rents – to increase faster than the central London average over the next few years largely as a result of Crossrail.
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“The residential markets in Paddington are crying out for new supply,” says Diana Alam, its head of residential development sales. “We expect fervent demand when the new schemes come to market. The next few years promise to be exciting times for Paddington.”
Little Venice, a tranquil series of canals to the north of Paddington station, is packed with waterside cafes and charming pubs. But if you’re after something a bit different, Australian cafe Beany Green does great coffee, healthy lunches, fat-free smoothies and sweets inspired by Oz. After all those greens, stock up on red meat at Casa Malevo on Connaught Street, an Argentinian steakhouse of the highest calibre that was described as “something of a Euro hangout” by Tatler. The Victoria on Strathearn Place is a great local boozer, steeped in history, with great food. Legend has it that Queen Victoria herself stopped off there once so the pub was named in her honour, and Charles Dickens wrote a portion of Our Mutual Friend there. And a visit to Paddington isn’t complete without saying hello to Paddington Bear’s statue, designed by sculptor Marcus Cornish and unveiled by the book’s author Michael Bond in 2000.
Sources: Zoopla, TfL