London W1. Camden. London Property Area Guide.
Its heart may have been mercilessly torn out but there’s plenty of life flowing through its veins
Nestled between Bloomsbury and Marylebone, Fitzrovia has neither the polish nor openness of its neighbours but it certainly does have something! On my daily walk through the area I was trying to pin down why I love the area so much. In truth the area can be a little grimy (especially at 8am, before the street cleaners give it a scrub). Grease stains the pavements of Charlotte Street and parts of Goodge Street, many of the buildings need a lick of paint and it borders the “bad” end of Oxford Street and Hi-tech centre of Tottenham Court Road, but it’s oh so much fun!
The Home of Londons ‘Mad-Men’
As a child and teenager growing up nearby, in the golden age of Advertising, I viewed Fitzrovia as the Ad Man’s paradise. As well as Saatchi’s offices which are still located at 80 Charlotte Street, other big names that dominated the industry; TBWA, Fallon, Grey and McCann-Erikcson (now moved) made Fitzrovia their home. Somehow I felt this gave the area a special licence for sophisticated fun, creativity and people watching/eavesdropping. After the ad men, came the overspill from Soho; post producation companies, design and architectural agencies which scatted the district but never in such concentration as Soho or Clerkenwell.
Entertain on Charlotte Street
Fitzrovia is a destination in it’s own right particularly for dining and socialising. There’s nothing like the atmosphere of Charlotte Street on a sunny summer weekday evening. Carefree groups spill from the pubs and al-fresco dining is taken seriously. It has its fair share of uber trendy bars and hot new restaurants as well as more casual and popular establishments. Particularly prolifant are Tapas restaurants; Fino and Navarros have been around for many years and have more recently been joined by super popular Salt Yard and Barrica (the most authentic Spanish food in London, says our friend Juan) – there’s almost something of a little Espana revolution in the area! As well as sparkling and new there are also cafes, eateries and shops that have been around for decades and I hope continue to stay.
Local people, myself included, felt that in 2006, part of the geographic, historical and beauty at the heart of Fitzrovia was ripped from its core. The Middlesex Hospital stood at the centre of the area since 1757 and despite being rebuilt in 1927 in architectural flavour many adored, the hospital closed in 2005 and was sold to the developer Candy & Candy who demolished the building to make way for a housing and retail development called NoHo Square (rebranding London’s areas to mimick New Yorks trendy neighbourhoods is the cheapest Estate Agent/ Property Developer trick in the book).
Extremely unpopular with local people, the scheme failed during the 2008 credit crunch and since then Fitzrovia has been left with a gigantic hole, only now being developed again to produce unoriginal glass and steel apartments and retail. Why oh why the original plans couldn’t have included renovation of the beautiful original building know one knows.
Fitzroy Place is the scheme now being developed on the Middlesex Hospital site. A huge development of almost 250 apartments, prices are averaging £1,850 a square foot – a huge premium for the area and even expensive versus established neighbour Marylebone. Foreign investors and large rental landlords buying in bulk are the majority of demand.
Saatchi & Saatchi’s office space at 80 Charlotte Street is also signalled for redvelopment into a mixed use office and retail destination. The government has recently relaxed laws on converting office space into residential and Fitzrovia, with smaller office blocks than most London neighbourhoods is prime for more devlopment. In 5 years this area could feel very NewYork SoHo / TriBeCa, with commercial buildings morphed into large loft apartments and period features.
West End Fringe
Although centrally located on the fringe of the West End and often seen to be home to the very wealthy and famous it is in fact a mixed area with a variety of housing from the very affluent to social housing. The architectural jewel in Fitzrovia’s crown is Fitzroy Square, located to the north of the district, much of it was designed by Robert Adams.
Telecom Tower, in Cleveland Street, dominates the area to the West of Fitzrovia, which is more unkempt and commercial than the East side bordering Great Portland Street. Fitrovia’s lack of a single large Landlord (unlike most of central London) has left a mish-mash of zones, poor street planning and a lack of collaboration to lift the area. Consequently photographers love the scrappy dimly lit alleys and untouched streets and it’s becoming somewhat of a film location manager’s dream!
New York, New York
I don’t know why, but I always get a kind of New York vibe from this area. Maybe this explains why I instantly fell in love with Manhattan. Is it the “Avenue” feel travelling north up Tottenham Court Road, the “lower east side” feel of the tiny gardens and small streets which are ironically situated next to the American Church in London, the fashion district feel to the west of Fiztrovia, the architecture, the concentration of commercial art galleries and dealers, or simply the people?
Houses are almost non-existent in Fitzrovia. There are a handful, yet many are really converted from shops and upstairs flats. Many of the Mews streets contain working buildings, rather than residential, although the majority of Fitzroy Mews was converted into houses around 5 years ago (now looking a little dated). If you can find a whole house, or negotiate buying all the flats in a townhouse on Goodge Place, I’m sure you’ll see a tidy return in a decade. Moments from Charlotte Street this cobbled quiet street still feels down at heel, yet has plenty of gentrification potential. Colville Place is the last hidden gem. A few of these 4 storey, sixties style homes in a pedestrianised street off Charlotte Street are loved homes. Others have been coming onto the market needing alot of refurbishment. At the end of the street is a (public) secret garden!
Apartments in the area come in three categories: above retail, red brick blocks or new(ish) build.
Given Fitzrovias predominant commercial, retail and restaurant businesses, most ground and lower ground floors are occupied by a business with 2 to 3 floors above given over to ‘walk up’ flats (you rarely find a lift). Most properties are rented out and in poor condition, yet you can find nicer flats to rent along Great Portland Street.
Red Brick Blocks
Roads running South off New Cavendish Street (Gosfield, Great Titchfield, Hanson) are lined with red brick apartment blocks. Some have lifts, yet many are stairs only. The flats are smaller in dimensions (and ceiling height) than in neighbouring Bloomsbury or Marylebone so prices are lower. Residents here are a mix of old retired long-time occupants, young professionals and students renting.
Warren Street and Newman street play host to new developments at premium prices – watch out, room sizes, especially bedrooms can be on the very small side. Many of the available flats in the area exist in Eighties style buildings such as West One House on Riding Street and Montagu House on the corner of Whitfield Street and Maple Place. These flats offer convenience and solid buildings that shouldn’t attract any unexpected service charge costs – in return you get characterless apartments and a student feel.
+ Centrally located – The West End on your doorstep
+ Visually appealing streets to explore
+ Excellent shopping
+ Excellent dining
+ slightly more affordable than neighbouring Marylebone
+ Close to the green spaces of Regents Park
+ Close to Theatreland and cinemas
+ The Fitzrovia Neigbourhood centre is the focus of community action
– Shortage of accommodation
– Poorly maintained buildings mean big bills for residents in the future
– Shortage of schools in the immediate area
Latest Hipster restaurant: Berners Tavern at The London Edition Hotel
Elegant cocktail: The Bar at The Charlotte Street Hotel
Super Sushi and Sashimi: Roka, Charlotte Street
Morning pick-me-up: Lantana Café
Fake Tan to all the stars: James Read at The Sanderson
Best Burger: The Riding House Café
Cobbler: 5th Avenue Shoe repairs
SETTING & BOUNDARIES
Euston Road to the North
Oxford Street to the South
Tottenham Court Road to the East
Regent Street to the West
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TUBE & OVERGROUND
Tottenham Court Road: Northern and Central lines
Goodge Street & Warren Street: Northern Lines
Warren Street: Victoria Line
Great Portland Street: Hammersmith and City line and Metropolitan line
Overground: Crossrail hub at Tottenham Court Road, due to be finished in 2018
Buses 10,73,134,27,390,24, serve Tottenham Court Road
Buses 10,73,390, …………….. serve Oxford Street
Buses C2,88,………… serve Regent ST & Great Portland St
Buses 18,30, C2,………. Serve Euston Road
All Souls CofE Primary School, Foley Street, W1 7JJ
St Vincent’s RC Primary School, St Vincent Street, W1U 4DF (although more considered Marylebone)
Queens College – private junior and secondary schools, 43-49 Harley Street, W1G 8BT
Portland Place School (Independent 9-18yrs, mixed), 56-58 Portland Place, W1B 1NJ
University of Westminster is located nearby on Marylebone Road.
During it’s Bohemian and artistic hayday Fitzrovia was home to the likes of:
Sir Charles Eastlake, Artist
Ford Maddox Brown, Artist
Walter Sickert, Artist
(James Abbott McNeill) Whistler, Artist
George Bernard Shaw, Playwright
Virginia Woolf, writer
E.Nesbit, Famous children’s storyteller
Guy Ritchie is the only modern day resident we know of, so if you want to see more Celebs just hang out at Roka on Charlotte Street