Urbanisation is one of the defining forces of the 21st century, so the way that cities grow and evolve is more important than ever.
In London, since 1677, the evolution of 300 acres west of the city has been in the experienced hands of Grosvenor, one of the world’s leading international property groups. It is comprised of 100 acres of Mayfair, where development into a fashionable residential area around Grosvenor Square began in 1720, and Belgravia. The latter was originally part of ‘Five Fields’ (open land between Hyde Park and the River Thames) before the 1820s, where a series of classic Regency-style squares overlooking private gardens, streets and crescents were created. Having actively managed the estate through numerous economic cycles, the industrial revolution and technological changes, the property group has more than proven that it is capable of adapting to a changing world.
Today, Mayfair is the capital’s fashion, gastronomic and cultural heartland, retaining a village-like atmosphere yet home to the highest density of five-star hotels in the city, independent boutiques, renowned art galleries and Michelin-starred restaurants, all flanked by immaculate garden squares and exclusive residential addresses. Duke Street and Mount Street are both lined with a mix of international fashion brands and emerging British design talent (such as Christopher Kane, Roksanda Ilincic and Sophia Webster), while South Audley Street boasts Balmain, Erdem, Rick Owens and Caprice Holdings’ 34 restaurant. ‘Mayfair is one of the most glorious parts of London,’ attests Peter Ruis, Jigsaw CEO. ‘With what’s happening with Crossrail, the whole of North Mayfair is being opened up again. It’s transforming into something more quirky and slightly more independent in its feel.’
When it comes to art galleries, there’s American art dealer Larry Gagosian’s new gallery on Grosvenor Hill, round the corner from the Gagosian gallery on Davies Street. Openings such as this are helping to attract a new, lively crowd and to keep the area buzzing. Not forgetting neighbouring Cork Street (where the careers of Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud were launched), the Royal Academy of Arts and Christie’s auction house. As Nathalie Seiler-Hayez, general manager at The Connaught hotel, says, ‘Our clientele has become younger, more fashionable and more art savvy, which adds a new dynamism to the location.’
It’s a similar success story in Belgravia too. Bordered by London’s most famous landmarks, including Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and Harrods, the area is home to more than 300 niche boutiques and stores offering everything from Chesterfield sofas to champagne cupcakes, couture hats to beautifully packaged bags of Mayan hot chocolate. Pimlico Road is renowned for design: it’s the place to dig for one-of-a-kind antiques and statement pieces of furniture, and where designers such as David Linley, Rose Uniacke and Nicholas Haslam display their wares in striking showroom settings. Nearby Elizabeth Street appeals to foodies and the fashion crowd alike with French bakery Poilâne, the Donna Ida denim boutique and specialist perfumery Les Senteurs all highlights (it’s also known as the focal point of the Belgravia Wedding Quarter, a real mecca for brides-to-be), while Motcomb Street ups the ante with Louboutin shoes, luxury linens, and the award-winning Errol Douglas hair salon.
‘Belgravia is a special place for us and for our customers with its low skies, charming streets and buildings, explains Tom Assheton, owner of Elizabeth Street’s Tomtom Cigars. ‘It has close access to the hubbub of Victoria and a unique reputation in London. As a consequence we meet the whole world coming through our little village.’ Stefan Turnbull, founder of Cubbitt House, a collection of public houses and hotels, agrees that the character buildings and rich history of Belgravia mean that the area has something special to offer. ‘Choosing Elizabeth Street and Pimlico Road as the locations for The Thomas Cubitt and The Orange pubs has proven to be a great fit for both establishments. The area is affluent but manages to maintain a village feel, it’s a place where local residents and businesses appreciate the variety of local shops, which attracts both Londoners and tourists to visit and spend time.’
All this is evidence of the Grosvenor group’s long-term approach, which combines global expertise (since the 1950s it has expanded internationally to 60 cities, with offices in 17 of them) with local knowledge and cultural understanding. Each project aims to reflect the spirit of that particular city and to foster thriving communities by working closely with civic authorities, small businesses and their consultants. Original design, high-quality building materials and innovative environmental solutions in new developments are all crucial factors in creating places in which people want to live, work and spend their free time.
‘Living cities’ is the philosophy that supports this strategy of creating, investing in and managing high-quality properties. In Bermondsey, for example, Grosvenor is developing 12 acres of land, building a significant number of new homes, a secondary school, shops and public spaces. In order to reach the decision of how best to tackle the project and what should be part of this inner London neighbourhood, the company spent a considerable amount of time getting to know the communities and working with local groups to ensure they understood what was needed.
Other more far-flung projects range from working with a local stone sculptor and contemporary artist on the refurbishment of an apartment building in Tokyo, The Westminster Roppongi (this is a rarity in Japan, where buildings are often knocked down and rebuilt rather than restored), to a residential complex in Calgary in Canada, which has a concierge service and a bike-sharing programme. There’s also a shopping centre in Stockholm, with a library, theatre and medical centre, and, in Australia, investment into relocating Melbourne’s fruit, vegetable and flower market to a more sustainable site. Wherever the location, this global urban property specialist is striving to help create better, more successful neighbourhoods for us all.
GROSVENOR 70 GROSVENOR STREET, LONDON W1K 3JP +44 (0)20 7312 0011