The real estate game
IT IS surprising that these days there are no sites on a Monopoly board further west than Park Lane; indeed, some of the locations are positively old-fashioned: Strand, Fleet Street and Northumberland Avenue are more familiar to students of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle than to those contemplating a property purchase. And surely Oxford Street is now better known for department stores and Christmas lights than prime residential accommodation. This situation needs to be rectified if the world's bestselling board game is to contend with the ebb and flow of the London property market and be brought in line with the requirements of the 21st century.
There should certainly be a reference to Eaton Square, laid out by Thomas Cubitt in the 1820s, where prices have recently been achieved in excess of £1,000 per square foot. Ayrton Wylie (020 7730 4628) can offer a maisonette, with its own street entrance and private garden, in an imposing Grade II* listed building at £1,250,000 for a new 20-year lease. And what about its neighbour, Sloane Square, owned by the Earl Cadogan and forming part of his 90acre Chelsea estate acquired, as in Monopoly, probably more by luck than udgment? Wellesley House, actually overlooking the square, is a prestigious mansion block with a resident porter, where Chesterfield (020 7581 5234) has an elegant second-floor flat of some 2,800 square feet for sale at £1,950,000. Not to forget Notting Hill: never given a second look until the 1980s, this white-stuccoed neighbourhood of Kensington, with its secret communal gardens, must surely now deserve a space on the board.
Yet the principle behind the game remains relatively simple: move around from the impoverished 'browns' of Old Kent Road and Whitechapel to the prosperous 'purples' of Park Lane and Mayfair, collecting £200 as you pass Go, unless you end up in jail. The object: to build properties (houses and hotels) on sites in your possession and then charge rent to any other play er unfortunate enough to land on that particular square. Have Waddingtons never heard of the Leasehold Reform Acts? This must be done so profitably and commercially that players increase their individual wealth, the wealthiest becoming the eventual winner. Greed, therefore, is good! Fortunes have been won and lost over it, the winners revelling in their prosperity, the losers forced into bankruptcy, with no choice but to remortgage or turn all their assets over to a merciless landlord.
But it is not just the addresses that are out of date; social values have changed dramatically since the invention of Monopoly in 1935. With an ever-expanding population, Whitechapel and Old Kent Road are now equally sought after, especially with their relative affordability and proximity to the City. In Southampton Way, Wooster and Stock (020 7732 4757) are marketing a lovely Regency town house sandwiched between an architectural salvage yard to the front and 3.800 square foot of light industrial/warehouse space to the rear, currently arranged as ground-floor shop and workshop and first-floor living space and workshop. Priced at £495,000, this 'fantastically versatile property is ideal for an adventurous and imaginative purchaser' and is situated only a few minutes from the
Old Kent Road. In Whitechapel Road, a penthouse loft apartment in a small courtyard development would cost £275,000 — Adeline Yard is on the market with Urban Spaces (020 7251 4000).
In north London, Islington boasts two Monopoly locations — the Angel, named after a former public house, and Pentonville Road. It is the archetypal late-Georgian and Regency suburb, which is, on the whole, well-preserved. There is a wide variety of development to be found here: short terraces of modest proportions, curving crescents and elegant squares. Located on the first floor of a charming terraced property is a one-bedroom period conversion. Decorated to a very high standard, it comprises drawing-room, kitchen, bathroom and double bedroom. Winkworth (020 7253 1566) comment that it is 'convenient for the Angel and King's Cross Underground stations'. In a slightly different price range, Hotblack Desiato & Co. (020 7226 0160) are marketing a 'lovingly restored period house, retaining many original features and having a south-facing garden, in the heart of the Barnsbury Conservation Area' for £960,000.
Fleet Street is perhaps not an obvious location to call 'home', being associated more with newspaper than wallpaper, but Sovereign House in St Bride Street is a highspecification apartment on the top floor of a newly refurbished building developed by Willow Acre. The agents, Hamptons International (020 7626 7726), describe it as being 'ideally located for Temple and the City' and it is priced at £375,000. Leicester Square, laid out by the Earl of Leicester in 1670, today is the quintessence of London's West End and not particularly remarked on for its residential element. However, in William IV Street, there is a three-bedroom flat on the first floor of a purpose-built block available with Stock Page and Stock (020 7251 4171) at £595,000.
It is not immediately clear why Vine Street was chosen, being one of the shortest thoroughfares in the A–Z, but close by, in London's oldest block of flats, Knight Frank (020 7591 8601) have a fine 'bachelor pad' for rent at £576 per week. Albany has a primarily English clientele, and amenities include porterage and limited parking. However, the uncarpeted staircases and compact kitchens would probably not meet the exacting standards required by a vice-president of, say, Goldman Sachs or Merrill Lynch.
In contrast, there is Mayfair, a development of 'the Hundred Acres' planned by Sir Richard Grosvenor and his surveyor in 1720, a significant part of which is still owned by the Duke of Westminster. Today, Mayfair is a cosmopolitan mix of residential occupiers, small, corporate headquarters buildings, restaurants, hotels, shops and embassies. Where does one start? It extends from Piccadilly to Oxford Street and from Regent Street to Park Lane, and Sydney Smith, the great Regency wit, once described this parallelogram as 'containing more intelligence and human ability — to say nothing of wealth and beauty — than the world has ever collected in one space before'. A good place to start would be with Wetherell (020 7493 6935), who describe themselves as 'Mayfair's leading estate agents', whether for a pied-aterre in Park Street at £240,000 or an immaculately refurbished fourthand fifthfloor maisonette in 'one of Mayfair's finest properties' at £2,750,000. On Piccadilly itself, Mercer Pasqua (020 7344 9707) have been instructed on a large second-floor flat in a modern, purpose-built block on the corner of Half Moon Street. The property, which faces south over Green Park, is on the market at £635,000.
A short walk through St James's brings you to Whitehall, where Hamptons International (020 7824 8822) are principal agents for a new residential development. The scheme comprises 20 apartments in the heart of historic London with its 'architectural splendour, royal ceremony, military tradition and political statesmanship'. Prices for the two-bedroom flats start at £425,000. If it is views that are required, you could not do much better than purchasing the top three floors of a magnificent period building overlooking Trafalgar Square, designed by John Nash in the 1820s, which are for sale with Jackson-Stops and Staff (020 7828 4050). The building was first used as offices in 1865 but has been substantially altered in the 19th and 20th centuries to produce the current arrangement. There is a sensational roof terrace on the fifth floor 'overlooking Admiralty Arch, The Mall and Buckingham Palace'. The agent is inviting offers in the region of £4,500,000.