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« Grand Stays | Main
Monday
Dec062010

First Service

WORDS HELEN ROXBURGH

For true high-end living, prestigious London addresses now offer their residents full concierge facilities

Occupants of luxury apartment buildings such as One Hyde Park have access to services from in-house staff round the clock

Evenings at home are a chance to relax and let the worries of the working day drift away. And if you live in one of the high-end serviced residential developments which are proving their popularity in central London, you can let someone else take those worries away.

Imagine being looked after as if you were in a hotel. Meals brought to your door, and your freshly washed and pressed clothes waiting for you when you get home. That sort of concierge living has a history of very short-term lets aimed mainly at tourists. But now these are a viable option for cash-rich individuals who don’t have time to spare.

Competition in central London is fierce. Two key sets of housing are due to complete within four months of each other, on either side of Hyde Park. One Hyde Park, adjacent to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Knightsbridge, is the biggest name in the bunch – and the most expensive. At least one penthouse at the top of the four towers – designed by Richard Rogers’ architectural practice – was reported to have been sold for £140m, making it the world’s most expensive apartment.

A stroll to the north side of leafy Hyde Park will locate you on Bayswater Road, where a row of listed 19th-century terraced homes, more recently a hotel, is being developed. The Lancasters is a luxury residential redevelopment set to finish next year, and the views of Hyde Park are not the only plusses. Most of the main reception rooms feature five-metre high ceilings with period cornices and fireplaces. The service element is provided by a 24-hour concierge operation, an underground spa, swimming pool and gym, along with the option for valet parking, personal shoppers and housekeeping.

Swimming pool at The Lancasters

As you might expect, the apartments are decorated in a lavish style. Residents will be offered electronically moving shelves in the fridges, hand-painted murals, African-style chandeliers made of buffalo horn and horsehair and a private landscaped garden complete with palm trees and sculptures. And of course, 270 of the windows look over Hyde Park, right on the doorstep. Mark Cherry, director of Very wealthy people
want to live in their own homes but get the same level of service as a hotel Minerva, developer of The Lancasters, says he is confident about the popularity of these luxury homes despite the economic situation:
‘This is the very top end of the market – and we’ve got a lot of international buyers wanting
to buy in London at the moment.’

Inevitably this high-end living comes with high-end prices. Apartments at The Lancasters have an average selling price of £10m. The first phase of two- to four-bedroomed apartments were priced between £2m and £4m. To snap up one of the townhouses at The Lancasters is likely to set you back around £40m.

One high-end serviced apartment already completed, offering views over Hyde Park, is The Knightsbridge, which is under the management of Hyatt International Hotels. The development describes itself as ‘a new benchmark’, and certainly until the two competitors cropped up at either corner of Hyde Park, it did hold a special part of the market. Developed by a Hong Kong developer prior to handing it over to the Hyatt, this pilot residential scheme proved that there was space in the market for UK developers to get involved.

The Knightsbridge housing offers 191 apartments, seven penthouse apartments set over two storeys, and seven mews houses set among landscaped gardens, with extensive spa and leisure facilities. On hand at all times are therapists, masseurs and personal trainers, plus a 24-hour gym. A full concierge service attends to residents’ needs, from catering services to flower arrangements to booking theatre tickets. The concierges can also advise families with children on babysitters and live-in childcare where needed. There is also 24-hour portering, housekeeping, cleaning, laundry repairs and home maintenance.

Despite the UK housing slump and the need to tighten belts, residential agents are not concerned about the effects on this corner of the market. ‘Very wealthy people want to live in their own homes,’ says James Thomas, residential director at Jones Lang LaSalle, ‘but get the same level of service as a hotel – on-site
catering, for example.’

And the recession has not dampened the trend for superprime. Research from agency Savills shows that just over £1.1bn worth of properties valued at more than £10m were sold in central London in the first three quarters of 2010 – 80 per cent of the amount for the same period in 2007, the peak of the market.

In terms of the ultimate service offer, though, the outstanding property is One Hyde Park. It’s Europe’s first residential development incorporating The Residences at Mandarin Oriental, and offers the same level of flawless and discreet service as that of the longestablished, luxury hotel company. A team of dedicated Residences staff is available around the clock to provide security, concierge services and spa treatments. Additionally, residents can make use of household, valet and parking services as well as the facility to order meals from any of the restaurants or room service from the adjacent hotel, to be delivered to their apartment. There are also squash courts and golf simulators, a 20-metre pool and an entertainment space which includes an 18-seat private cinema and a private party suite that can accommodate 150 guests for drinks.

Opening its doors next year, One Hyde Park heralds a new residential offering in the capital, and the trend for concierge living looks like settling in long-term.

One Hyde Park, The Residences at Mandarin Oriental, SW1; onehydepark.com.

The Knightsbridge, 195-100 Knightsbridge, SW7; theknightsbridge.com.

The Lancasters 75–89 Lancaster Gate, London W2; thelancastershydepark.com.

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