XY Air Camden council developed flats launching for general sale
PUBLISHED: 19:04 11 March 2015 | UPDATED: 10:58 12 March 2015
The re-brand of the Maiden Lane estate near King’s Cross to “Le Corbusier-inspired” XY Air is one of many shockers for anyone who remembers the days when the estate was so bleak it was nicknamed Alcatraz.
History of the Maiden Lane Estate
Camden council has a distinguished heritage of house building. It had an Architects’ Department between 1965 and 1982, which was headed up by Sidney Cook (who designed the Brunswick Centre) until 1973.
The department was behind several now-listed Modernist housing schemes, of which The Maiden Lane Estate, completed in 1982, was the last.
It was designed by Benson & Forsyth, best known for their National Museum of Scotland building, but also responsible for the Branch Hill estate in Camden.
On completion the wood and concrete, low-rise architecture with private gardens, terraces or balconies for each home, was praised for its design and quality.
However, within only a few years the estate had become severely run down with tenants complaining of a lack of security, damp, graffiti, heating problems and poor management.
While the architecture was blamed initially, subsequent reports found that a lack of maintenance and overcrowding were mainly responsible for the fact that the buildings were now virtually uninhabitable.
The fact that around half of the flats are being sold at full market rate (the average property value in Camden, which has some of the highest house prices in the UK, stands currently at £1,013,774) would be even more astonishing for anyone who hasn’t witnessed the past decade of King’s Cross’s regeneration.
The area is something of a flagship for regeneration however, and the 273 flats at the XY development are the first step in Camden council’s pioneering foray into house building.
The flats launch to buyers from outside the borough today (there was a launch for Camden residents and key workers in October) as part of the council’s Community Investment Programme, through which Camden hopes to raise £300million. This money will then be reinvested into building new homes, schools and community facilities.
Similar schemes by other boroughs are also in the pipeline, but Camden’s re-vamp of the Maiden Lane estate is the first of its kind and there are similar plans afoot for several other estates in the borough that have been earmarked as either out of date, expensive to maintain or underused.
David Jubb, who is heading up the sales team for the project at Savills points at that, while housing associations have been working along similar lines for some years, this is the first time a London borough has created this kind of mixed commercial and social development. It’s also the first time in nearly two decades that Camden have been able to build new council homes for rent and just over 50 of the new homes will be private rental.
“With a backdrop of cuts, Camden’s development is refreshing,” he says. “It’s quite unique what they’re doing. Having worked with them for four years it’s brilliant, it’s trying to create a solution to the fact we’re not building enough.
“Camden have followed their own policy all the way through, which is 50 percent affordable housing, and they’re doing a lot to provide that need.
“Camden are looking to sell to an owner occupier or to a first-time buyer, and we’re trying to target them; we’re not doing any overseas marketing, for example.”
Of course, with prices starting from £450,000 for a one-bedroom flat, this is not a charitable, council-funding enterprise for prospective buyers and the new blocks, designed by PRP Architects, fulfil the comfort, style and security requirements of most new-build buyers, while blending in with the existing architecture on the remainder of the estate. A new tower block, where penthouse flats are on sale at premium prices, offers views over the whole of London from the upper floors.
The buildings are also built with sustainability in mind, with green and brown living roofs encouraging wildlife to thrive and an on-site energy centre intended to provide savings.
Not only this, but Camden has committed to maintaining the estate through a “carefully planned programme of services”. Since the original estate’s decline was blamed heavily on neglect and lack of maintenance, this will surely be an important promise for anyone with one eye on recent history.
As Cllr Phil Jones, Camden’s cabinet member for regeneration, transport and planning, says: “The regeneration of Maiden Lane will give a great boost to an area with much history and a thriving local community. It will provide modern shared, private and Camden rented homes. New and improved open spaces, a new play area for children, cafe, retail and low cost employment space will also be included.”
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