Guess who’s back? The Billionaires’ Row rides again
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
No longer a decaying repository for oil money, luxurious new serviced apartments are putting The Bishops Avenue back on the map and attracting local buyers back to the road along with the international crowd.
Pity The Bishops Avenue. Once synonymous with a certain type of international jetsetter, the street became a byword for decay and a symbol of the wider issues in the London property market as the housing crisis engulfed the city.
It had been a road with a reputation to equal Rodeo Drive where even its disasters – recounted with relish by Trevor Abrahmsohn of Glentree Estates, the major estate agent for the Avenue – were glamorous: the 1985 murder by silver bullet of fashion tycoon Aristos Constantinou; the homeowner killed by his mistress with a bottle of Champagne to the cranium are just two examples.
Home to millionaire playboys, deposed foreign dignitaries and Salman Rushdie under 24-hour police protection during the fatwa against him, the street had begun to lose its sheen by the turn of this century.
The boarded up, rotting mansions set behind forbidding security gates with few signs of life meant that ‘billionaires’ row’ began to be thought of as little more than an unofficial bank account for oil money. It was rare to pass a person on the Avenue’s leafy pavements or to see an unshuttered window on its largest houses.
As Abrahmsohn says: “The number of absent owners meant that domestic staff become the de facto residents.”
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But, once again, The Bishops Avenue’s fortunes are on the turn, with new apartment complexes leading the way to tempt owner occupiers back to the (in)famous street.
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The newest, and undoubtedly the grandest, of these is Buxmead, a collection of 20 apartments within a luxury gated development.
The private complex comprising six duplexes, three penthouses and eleven apartments is set within 2.5 acres of landscaped gardens.
Particularly unusual for property at this level are the communal facilities, which are intended to give the feel of a private members club or a boutique hotel – offering all the benefits of home ownership with few of the responsibilities.
A 25m indoor swimming pool, gym, beauty and treatment salon, residents’ bar and lounge, professional cinema, boardroom and two fully equipped offices, seated dining area for up to 18 guests and a party space where more than 100 people can be hosted are unique features of the common parts – along with personal concierge service from Ten concierge and use of a chauffeured Mercedes.
If all this communal space sounds a bit luxury student digs, use of them is strictly optional – at between 3,000 and 7,000 sq ft, the apartments at Buxmead are certainly spacious enough for anyone’s daily needs.
And although the development is ideally set up for a lock up and leave lifestyle, the developer, Harrison Varma, says that of the three flats already sold, two have gone to local downsizers who plan to make full use of all the amenities.
Stephen Lindsay, head of north London at Savills says “It can only be a good thing for the road and for the community. It particularly appeals to people who are already living locally in those big houses on Ingram Road, Courtenay Avenue and Compton Avenue who are happy living up in Hampstead and the Suburb.
“This is the first opportunity where they get to move within the area with these facilities.”
“The apartments have brought back the typically English buyer to the Bishops Avenue,” says Abrahmsohn. “They’ve brought back the soul and life again, which is a good thing.”
So what is the attraction of this type of luxury home for the new breed of Bishops Avenue buyer?
According to Vivienne Harris of Heathgate it’s a mixture of security, privacy and ease.
“With some high profile people that we deal with they want something gated so they go for the developments. Houses on their own don’t offer the level of security and service that you see in gated developments,” she explains.
“They want to be discreet, they can go in and out with underground parking so they can get around without anyone knowing they’re there. There’s a porter, a concierge, 24-hour security and the service charges are more reasonable.
“On top of that they don’t have to deal too much with the property, they have very little responsibility.
“I’ve got a high profile couple living in a house not far from there, they’re going to move out in September because they’ve said running the house is too much bother for them. Because the house is all so technical they’ve had to get someone to come in and check the house for them when they’re away in the summer to check that the pool hasn’t overflowed the pumps are still working. They don’t want that responsibility.”
Harris cites the development at 49 Bishops Avenue, another gated apartment complex which is also under a decade old, as another example of a property drawing live-in residents back to the road, thanks in part to the convenient lifestyle as well as the family friendly location.
“For a long time The Bishops Avenue was empty, there were only about six families actually living there.
“Some very wealthy families used to use a house on The Bishops Avenue as their weekend retreat from central London. They would live centrally and then decamp out here at the weekend.
There’s a much less transient population living there now, partly because it’s a more English market – I include Russian, Kazakhstani and Indian, anyone who is English resident in that description.
People with families who want to make London their base feel that perhaps they’re better off a bit further out with more space and gardens, it’s a lot less claustrophobic than central London and on top of that we’ve got the highest density of schools anywhere in England.”
The Bishops Avenue is back on the map.
buxmead.co.uk, 0208 815 1400