The forward-thinking and fashionable area of Brixton has gone from fringe to famous, and is now being redefined once more as a new homes hotspot.
Squire and Partners architects – whose projects include Canary Wharf skyscrapers and the Shell Centre redevelopment – is relocating from North London to SW9, in a move that is set to bring a host of architects and design companies to the area.
The firm is setting up in the listed Bon Marché Centre, the UK’s first purpose-built department store and steel-frame building.
A derelict Edwardian annexe of the original store, built in 1877, is being reinvented as a creative centre, with a gallery and exhibition space, a bar, café and rooftop pavilion. The project also sees an old fire station and stables being renovated to become studio space for creative businesses.
Additionally, Lambeth Council is moving into a new town hall and freeing up land and buildings for 275 homes and improved public space. Hambrook House, a 14-storey tower, will provide 94 flats.
Brixton’s Latest Status as a New Homes Hotspot
The Junction combines modern architecture and stylish interiors. 92 bright flats are spread across three buildings with roof terraces and gardens. Two-bedroom properties start at £570,000.
Park Heights is a new 20-storey tower on the site of a former council estate. Generous-sized flats feature large, wraparound balconies, and are priced from £420,000.
Traditionally, Brixton was a cheap alternative to Clapham. But now, buyers move there because they want to.
Brixton Market is a hotspot for bars and cafes, but it was the music halls and late-night trams to the West End that made it a thriving area in the past.
After the Second World War, however, Brixton was the prime destination for a wave of Caribbean immigrants, due to its cheap rooms.
In the 1980s, the area was subject to riots, and many wouldn’t dream of living there.
But the political spotlight on Brixton turned its status around over the next decade.
By the 2000s, young, fashionable buyers joined the cosmopolitan mix of locals in Brixton, although the yuppies still kept their distance.
Brixton was a liberal spot with creative new ideas. The area even has its own currency, the Brixton pound (B£), designed to encourage local trading and production. Notes can be used at over 200 outlets.
But is Brixton’s character being distorted by gentrification? Some residents fear that it will lose its charm.
Earlier this year, the local branch of Foxtons estate agents was vandalised by affordable housing campaigners.
These groups state that local businesses are being forced out by expensive rents imposed by corporate landlords who’ve taken over the area. Property prices have hit £800 per square foot, and large Victorian homes can cost up to £2m.
A public relations manager who works in Marylebone, Gemma Shah, says: “The changes have been astonishing since I moved here in 2008. Back then, there was only Franco Manca pizza parlour and Rosie’s Café in what’s now the village, and probably two decent spots for a night out.
“Windrush Square, the public space in front of Ritzy Cinema, was pretty dire, too. Now it feels like people from all over London want to visit Brixton. It’s incredible how property prices have risen. I wouldn’t be able to afford my flat now.
“The transformation has made Brixton a fun and interesting place to live, but one always hopes a balance is kept, that it retains its independent spirit and remains accessible to people earning normal salaries.”1
Squire and Partners believes that Brixton will improve and remain inclusive.
Brixton is in an ideal location, in zone 2 at the end of the Victoria line, causing newcomers to arrive from pricier parts of the capital. However, estate agents claim the typical buyer is someone that has rented locally first.