While new offices come on stream in the town centre, some of the more eye-catching edifices of the Croydon building spree of the 1960s are about to be given a lease of extra life.
Leon House is the 21-storey office block on Croydon High Street just south of the Flyover, a sort of outpost of the town centre’s modernist splurge, which was completed when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, a pint in the local would have cost two bob (that’s 10p to anyone under 40 or without an interest in history or economics), and Bobby Moore was captain of a World Cup-winning team.
Always recognised as one of the better examples of the brutalist boom of half a century ago, its office, retail and restaurant tenants have been moved out over the past two years as it has undergone conversion into a residential tower under permitted development rules.
The scheme by FI Real Estate Management (FIREM) is delivering “a luxury 263 executive apartment complex”, in which the flats will have “floor to ceiling windows affording panoramic views over London”. Bet they won’t be cheap to heat come the winter, either…
Industry estimates put the value of the residential scheme at more than £70million.
It may be significant that the developers have somehow managed to squeeze in an additional 14 properties into the block, compared with the 249 flats it was originally proposing when Property Week reported the scheme two years ago. Those extra flats could be worth at least an additional £4million to the developers.
When residents move in, they will find that there is a “sky lounge” roof garden on the 21st floor, “available exclusively for residents who will also have membership of Club Leon, an in-house members’ club offering exclusive privileges and access to all facilities including meeting rooms and the grand open space of the foyer”. Note that use of “exclusively” and “exclusive” in one sentence: this ain’t going to be helping ordinary, hard-working families get on to the housing ladder or doing anything to help resolve the housing crisis.
It is worth noting that while the refurbishment into flats has been possible at Leon House, it is an option which was ruled out as being too costly when the then Tory-run council, under Conservative leader Mike Fisher and CEO Jon Rouse, conspired with John Laing to demolish another noteworthy 1960s Croydon building, Taberner House, and spend an eye-watering £140million on building an office block, Fisher’s Folly.
The “luxury executive apartments” in Leon House are due to go on sale in September, with completion dates scheduled between April and August 2018.
The residents of Leon House will also have their properties (and property values) enhanced by the presence in the foyer of a genuine piece of original and inspired artwork by noted post-war sculptor William Mitchell.
The sculpture, formed by carving concrete whilst the second coat was still wet, is an integral part of the building, so cannot be destroyed. However, the previous office block managers had the Mitchell covered over as they sought to turn the reception space into a bland white box.
Now back in its pride of place, the Mitchell really will provide some art worth coming to Croydon to see.
“Leon House is acknowledged to be one of the finest examples of Croydon’s modernist 1960s architecture and is now set to become a new and unique residential opportunity in a popular area with the town’s young creative tech and professional community who are looking for homes designed to London standards,” is how Mark Adams, FIREM’s associate development director, put it.
Neither FIREM nor the local council have yet said how many additional NHS GPs might be provided to tend to the day-to-day medical needs of the 800-plus new Croydon residents moving into this block in what, for now, is Fairfield ward, nor where all their children will go to school, or where they might park their cars (some are sure to drive, aren’t they?).
Nor does the council seem to have considered what such over-supply of top-end apartments coming on to the market in such a small area might do, ultimately, to the value of its own developments, through Block by Block, at College Green, next to the Fairfield Halls, and elsewhere in the town centre.
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