FITZROVIA, the area around the BT Tower, bordered by Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road, Great Portland Street and Euston Road, should be Londoners’ idea of property heaven. The West End is on your doorstep, as is Regent’s Park. The ever-more exciting restaurant and bar scene of Goodge and Charlotte Streets, and the more established prettiness of Marylebone, are a stone’s throw away. Transport-wise, you’re spoiled for choice, with almost every Tube line near by. And if its history you like, well, you’re in one of London’s most important artistic areas, once home to Virginia Woolf and William Blake, among many others.
And yet, for far too long, Fitzrovia’s image has been that of “a strange area”, a “limbo-ish pocket” – an odd mix of the old and the new, where the old feels dusty and slightly obscure and the new takes the form of imposing office buildings belonging to big companies who once sought a cheaper alternative to Mayfair or the City.
But times are changing, and Fitzrovia is poised on the brink of gold-plated property status. Indeed, the developers InHolborn are campaigning to rebrand the area between the?West End and the?City as Midtown. If being rebranded as a Manhattan neighbourhood isn’t a sign of coming up in the world, then what is?
Well, the construction of a supremely elegant block of flats from the Manhattan Loft Corporation (the developers behind the instantly sold-out St Pancras conversion) and Ridgeford Properties, is one answer. Fitzrovia Apartments, billed as “Manhattan meets Fitzrovia” and the ultimate “urban village”, is located on Bolsover Street, and comprises 70 flats, including two £7m penthouses, currently being rented out for £3,000 per week. The first batch of flats was sold off quickly, with buyers moving in last December. Now in its second phase of development, interest is already feverish for the remaining flats, which will be completed in 2012.
Harry Handelsman, CEO of Manhattan Loft Corp, believes the area needed an injection of thoughtful modernity. “There are beautiful houses on Fitzroy Square,” he says. “But in terms of modern residential development, Fitzrovia was just ignored, and what did take place was rather ordinary.” But isn’t there a risk of clashing painfully with the period architecture that defines Fitzrovia’s squares? “No, I believe it’s about good architecture, which speaks for itself. I treated this modern intervention like a wake-up call: I didn’t want to do anything banal.” He is particularly proud of the double-height entrance: it provides a profound “sense of arrival”.
If you’re in the market for a smart new flat in a smart new development, you do have some choice – the obvious alternative is the super-elegant Heron going up near the Barbican. So why should you choose Fitzrovia? “Fitzrovia is about comfort and about soul,” says Handelsman. Flats from £650,000-£7m. www.fitzroviaapartments.com
FITZROVIA | NEED TO KNOW
HISTORY: The core of the area is Fitzroy Square, named after the 18th century Fitzroy Tavern, named in turn after one of the area’s first developers, Charles FitzRoy, later Baron Southampton. Residents have included John Constable, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Dylan Thomas, the architect Robert Adam, William Blake, Virginia Woolf and George Bernard Shaw.
PUBS: The Fitzroy Tavern, The Marquis of Granby, Adam and Eve, The Newman Arms.
RESTAURANTS: Goodge and Charlotte Streets are crammed with top-class food and drink options. Great tapas are to be had at Salt Yard and Barrica (Goodge Street); for more serious Spanish dining, at Fino (Rathbone Place), while the best Japanese in town is at Roka and on a smaller scale at Tsunami (both Charlotte St). The Charlotte Street Hotel is a buzzy bar and restaurant, and Bam-bou is a groovy, chic Asian restaurant and bar on the corner of Charlotte St. The Sanderson Hotel (Berners St) is a seriously glam spot for food and spa.
EDUCATION: LSE, UCL, SOAS and the London College of Fashion are all headquartered in Fitzrovia. Camden School for Girls and the boys’ Westminster City School are good local secondary schools. Top independent school Francis Holland is nearby.
SHOPPING: Selfridges, John Lewis, The Conran Shop, La Fromagerie and much, much more are within spitting distance.