Like so many parts of the capital, Bayswater has had its ups and downs. Its proximity to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens- treated as a back garden by locals- and central location has made it popular with affluent Londoners and overseas buyers.
The wide streets and crescents are characterised by elegant, white stucco 19th century town houses rivalling Belgravia’s. However, an abundance of seedy bedsits, tacky hotels, tourist tat around Paddington Station and Queensway, and a reputation as a notorious red light district led to Bayswater’s fall from grace in the decades after World War II.
Today it’s a very different place. Paddington’s regeneration is well under way and Grade II- listed Whitley’s is a smart shopping centre. Queensway itself is still scruffy but it’s always busy, due in part to some excellent Chinese restaurants.
Change is in the air: a Middle Eastern buyer- widely thought to the Sultan of Brunei – has recently acquired 75 per cent of the properties along Queensway, including Whitley’s. A master plan for a makeover is being drawn up and it’s tipped to become the Covent Garden of West London by 2020.
Bayswater’s transport connections are excellent and residents can walk to work in the West End, Knightsbridge and Kensington. Queensway and Lancaster Gate are on the Central line, Bayswater is on the District and Circle, and Heathrow is a 15 minute train ride from Paddington. When Crossrail opens in 2018, Canary Wharf will be just over 15 mins away. All the stations are in Zone 1 and an annual travel card costs £1,256.
The vast majority of Bayswater stucco houses are divided into flats, ranging from spruced up bedsits to spacious lateral apartments. The clientele is as international as ever and the area is enjoying a new lease of life.
“We have buyers from all over the globe,’ says Michael Wilson of Mountgrange Heritage estate agents. which opened a Bayswater office last September. ‘Although prices have climbed by 20 per cent in the past 18 months, there’s still growth to be had and Bayswater is up to 20 per cent cheaper than Notting Hill & Marylebone.
‘Prices vary greatly. For example, first floor flats tend to be dearer as they have high ceilings and balconies. You can find a studio flat for £350,000 and some of the new schemes are selling for over £3,000 per square foot. The most desirable properties are in Cleveland Square, full of stucco fronted houses overlooking a private garden. ‘
Until recently, Bayswater had seen little development but the situation is changing as some former hotels are being converted into high spec apartments. A welcome side effect is the neighbourhood now feels less transient.
A catalyst for Bayswater’s resurgence was the redevelopment of a former hotel on Bayswater Road, a joint venture between Minerva and Northacre. Built as a parade of 15 mid-Victorian town houses, it was transformed into The Lancaster’s, a landmark collection of 77 apartments which fetched record prices for the area.
‘The rise of property prices in Bayswater has long been heralded. It was not until the arrival of The Lancaster’s that we really witnessed an appetite for ultra high-end property,’ says Caspar Harvard Walls of buying agency Black Brick. ‘The development has achieved prices of up to £3,800 per square foot, which is far in excess of the immediate local market. Developers are now looking at Bayswater as an area where there is sufficient demand for high-end property.
‘Bayswater lack a heart at the moment so many residents will benefit hugely if the Queensway project is a success, and we anticipate that some new record prices will be achieved over the coming months, especially for one and two bedroom properties. However, investors need to adopt a medium to long term view and allow for serious growth over the next five to ten years.’
The Hempel collection on Craven Hill Gardens is under way. In phase one, developer Amazon property is converting the former Comfort Inn into 12 lateral apartments and three bespoke town houses, priced from £2.6 million. Phase two will compromise the transformation of the Hempel Hotel – once a celebrity hangout and temple to minimalism- into further luxury apartments. The Alchemi Group is developing two hotels in Leinster Square and converting redundant 1980’s office block Westbourne House on Westbourne Grove into 20 stunning apartments. And at Prince’s Mansions on Princes Square, Fraser & Co has a one bedroom third floor flat for sale ina grand newly refurbished town house for £900,000.
The area also has a thriving rental market, with homes to suit all budgets. The Collective Hyde Park is a recently launched scheme of 24 high-end studios and en-suite rooms in a period building on Inverness Terrace, available for affordable rent. Price are from £290 per week inclusive of bills and flexible lease options of up to three years offer long term security.