Across prime areas of London landlords have historically been motivated only by securing and retaining their tenants. Historically London landlords did not usually seek to reinvent the precious commodity of commercial space they had right under their noses.
It took forward-looking and powerful London landlords in the form of the Portman Estate, Howard de Walden, Cadogan and Grosvenor Estates to reach the conclusion that these prime pockets of London real estate could be so much more than they were.
For example, as recently as ten years ago Mount Street was a mishmash of commercial offices and shops, albeit one with a few established shops. Among those which still exist are Douglas Hayward, tailors, and Allens of Mount Street, one of London’s longest standing butchers. Similarly, in recent times Marylebone High Street, Chiltern Street, Elizabeth Street and Motcombe Street in refined but characterless Belgravia were all uninspiring and dull.
London Landlords and London’s Villages
In recent times, these caretakers of the streets of London set about collaborating with estate agents to craft a strategy to cultivate individual destination ‘villages’ within the city. The mighty London landlords came up with a vision and, over time, set about transforming their areas into desirable, vibrant and independent shopping destinations.
Each area hosted charming well-chosen retailers with their own distinct personality, instead of the standard lacklustre chain shops which had been a stalwart on every street. Quirky and practical retailers, from barbers to greengrocers and butchers, jostle alongside independent delis, cafes and boutiques – adding interest and a buzz to all these upmarket areas.
The major London landlords ploughed large sums of capital into substantial refurbishments of buildings and road layouts. They knocked down old ugly offices, such as in Pavilion Road off Sloane Street, replacing the 1960’s building with a smart contemporary office structure. In places they replaced paving with fancy cobbled streets to enhance the more traditional village appearance. They also added to the character by creating attractive shop fronts, enhancing the feel of stepping into a thoughtful, pleasing village hub.
The end result has been beneficial not only to visitors and shoppers, but also to local residents. Properties have been boosted in value because the surrounding areas have undergone a transformation; enhancing the sense of community and revitalising the streets. People tend to stay in areas that support their everyday needs and offer a feel-good factor as they go about their daily life.
Where once in Belgravia you could not pop out to a local shop for a pint of milk, today in Motcombe and Elizabeth Street you can find a handy newsagent, a food shop and a host of local retailers less than a stone’s throw from the large elegant houses that line Belgravia’s famous streets.
So today’s Prime Central London is bursting with ‘new villages’ and new life. It just goes to show what a splash of imagination and sound planning by these London landlords has cleverly achieved.
By Simon Barnes of H.Barnes & Co.