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Has the SE1 bubble burst? for now

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Monday 9 December 2002 6.12pm
I was just wondering what is happening to our beloved patch of London.

We started our business around 3 years ago and moved to Bermondsey for 2 reasons

1. the location/transport links
2. price we got some nice old warehouse space for next to nothing did it up a bit and now have a nice (if somewhat messy) space

When we came here there wasn't that much going on, the honest cabbage was nice, the scotia was The Woolpack and the elusive camel was the King of Denmark (i think). Bermondsey street was half empty, loads of old building lying empty.

Over the last 3 years the cabbage has wilted, The Woolpack and king got makeovers - the latter seemed to be renovated for quite a while and reopened looking pretty much the same as when it closed. Scaffolding has covered most of the buildings in Bermondsey st at one time or another. the old buildings have been gutted, done up some quite well, some awfully, rents have not so much creeped up but shot out of the roof.

The area has been labelled up and coming, borough market has become very popular and the southbank is getting busier, but rather than up and coming are we more over and out.

lots of the spangly refurbs are empty and have been for months and months, owners and estate agents are sticking to their guns and trying to keep rents high but are they pricing us out. I spent 2 months looking for a flatshare in SE1 with a budget of 500-600 a month, I scoured loot, supermarkets and newsagent windows and what could I get, well there were some lovely pokey little rooms in ex-council flats near the river (what river runs along the Old Kent rd then) in the end I gave up and found a fantastic loft conversion in Shoreditch 20 mins walk away, 2 mins from spitalfields, nears bars and restaurants that are open until the early hours ( sorry honest cabbage you put the final nail in the coffin for me when you turned us away at 10 on a Thursday night in your first week of reopening)

We are all screaming out for a nice funky local bar/diner the Bermonsey kitchen looked to be our saviour, now 3 or 4 weeks after opening I walk past at 5:30 on a Friday night and there is 7 people in there

So what is next? do the nice new flats and office remain empty or do prices drop and young vibrant creative business move in or do we just become the square mile's guest bedroom?

anyone like to predict the future?
Wednesday 11 December 2002 6.04pm
Hi Biscuit Boy
I don't have a crystal ball but I wanted to add another point that I feel has a bearing on the neighbourhood you so eloquently describe. My biggest fear is that SE1's soul will be lost to developers who insist on making their luxury apartments expensive ghettoes with gates and electronic security. Everybody has the right to feel safe in their own homes but are compounds the future of city housing?

You mention Shoreditch. It's an area that does share some similarities to SE1. However if you walk around there you certainly get the impression that it is certainly less ghettoised or over-developed with that dreaded word - "luxury" - apartments. It has an edgier feel and maybe that is why the rent is cheaper. In the end I would prefer SE1 to be more that way than a pricey but sterile corporate housing estate.

I'm by nature an optimitist and I would still rather be on this side of the river than over there.
Friday 13 December 2002 12.46pm
Haa haa!!

Loved the bit about riverside bing old kent road - is this artistic licence at it's best?

Does anyone else feel that Borough Market is losing it's appeal - prices have gone up, quality down and overcrowded?

Also when are they going to do something with Tower Bridge Road - I can now send money to Nigeria from 8 different places but nowhere decent to eat/drink or get a coffee - be it Starbucks or someone a bit more ethical.
Friday 13 December 2002 3.29pm
To biscuit boy (first bit) and Dave Baker (last bit):


Residential rents dropped by 25% in the 6 months after 9/11 last year and have now come back to the same level as before those events. Property prices for sales haven't moved for a year (other than the top end which has come off a bit) - you can buy exatly the same amount of space in SE1 now as you could have done in August 2001, although again there was a dip after 9/11. Estate agents are actually paid to stick to their guns if they can - owners don't pay us thousands of pounds for the privilege of us getting them down on price. Although it's an interesting concept....

Your reasons for moving here are the same as many people then - cheap and central. Nothing at all to do with community. Probably because there wasn't one. Now there is and it costs more to live here - which is not wildly different from every single other area in London.

Despite being an ancient part of London, Borough is a baby in terms of a property market - 3-4 years old in any real sense - yes there a few buildings done before that but not enough to put the place on the map. So it's still growing up and yes, it's experiencing growing pains. People tend to move every 3-5 years and that has started creating a higher level of stock as the area changes from a "grab what you can before it's too late" market to something more regular which, quite frankly, is far nicer to work in. So no the bubble hasn't burst, it's just not expanding. More developments are coming to completion so the stock levels are now really set for the future. As a buyer it must be rather nice to get to see 5 or 6 places (or 30 or 40 for those who are convinced that something better is always around the corner) rather than be faced with "well we've got this one...." at each estate agent.

And not everyone we sell to leaves the area at the weekends. In fact even those that we did sell to on those terms are starting to spend more time here at weekends - probably explaining the market's continued success, of which of course now it is a victim in some people's eyes in that it's no longer for the locals when of course it never was in the first place and has only in recent years been opened to the public. I love it in there - ok it takes me 10 miniutes walk through it on a Saturday, invariably making me a bit late for an appointment but it's fab and vibrant and fun and the best one around so enjoy it. Or go to the much less-crowded one in the car park behind Blackheath Station with about 10 stalls and around 8 or 9 bewildered customers.... I'm sure you'll be running back to Borough in no time. Fortunately trains run regularly and you can be back in civilisation in around 10 minutes on a good day without rain, sunshine, a slight breeze, cloud, snow or any other kind of weather.

To Wendy: I agree about Shoreditch although I guess it's a case of "whatever floats your boat". As a rule, developers tend to cater for demand and they're not known for their ground-breaking ideas on new societies. Not everything around here is being built with gates and security but then so what if was? I'm sure there are plenty of people living in local authority buildings that are very happy with their new security entryphone systems. Communities are made or broken by the people in them - not by decorative front doors and intercoms. There is a massive, in touch community in this area - in fact communities. I love the fact that wandering around here I always bump into people I know (not just clients) and faces that have become more familiar over the years. Most likely, we're going to end up something like a cross between Clerkenwell & Shoreditch - and I imagine the better parts of both. There are loads of people lving herenow and they need something to do and it's not coming fast enough so they're getting a bit disillusioned (along with myself sometimes when it comes to going for dinner after work or indeed NOT wanting a sandwich for lunch).

My advice to everyone is be patient, enjoy what's already here and look forward to what's coming.

Or of course, being daring, do something to make it more what you want. Go and sit in a restaurant without too many customers and maybe more people will follow you in.

Or just walk on by....
Friday 13 December 2002 3.38pm

Point taken and very articulately put.

I believe you guys are handling the Jam Factory? the development will no doubt bring many new affluent people to the area - no bad thing despite the noise and pollution of the building (Mansells are getting better at thinking of the neighbours). Now that these people have begun to move in are there any plans to do something about Tower Bridge Road?

i have heard on this forum before that there is a lot of stonewalling from Southwark council about what premises can be used for what purpose on the road - I believe we have enough convenience stores to last a life time. The first wave of new comers, of which the jam factory community is at the end of this wave, have paved the way and will create a demand.. it won't be until someone addresses this demand and the area begins to change as regard to shops, cafe's and bars that the area will truly realise it's potential.

I agree the market and opubs like the Leather Exchange cater to this demand already but they are in real danger of being swamped.

Would be very interested in hearing your perspective as a resident and estate agent on these matters....

Friday 13 December 2002 5.01pm

The square where Bermondsey (not Borough) Market lies (bermondsey Square aptly enough) is due for redevelopement of offices, apartments and a small piazza which I guess will be the beginning. Certainly the 200 new flats at The Jam Factory will create a demand and everyone that lives there will end up walking along Tower Bridge Road. So it's up to the businesses there isn't it - will they get themselves together, sieze the opportunity and transform.... or just stick to what they know best. Given they're all, by definition, owned by business people, I would imagine the latter, so long as they are notified of the new demand. It would be all well and good to sit in your gorgeous loft moaning that Costcutter doesn't stock Soya & Linseed bread but the situation would be unlikely to change if you didn't go in and suggest they order it. Imagine if everyone living in the Alaska Buildings, Jam Factory, School House, Tabard Centre, Paragon, Charlotte Court and Tanners Yard were to descend on Tower Bridge with monotonous regularity and actually tell the businesses what they wanted to give them money for things. I'm not aware of an anti-luxury-items splinter group acting in that area so it's probably worth a go.

There is currently a large restaurant premises sitting empty at 39-43 Tower Bridge Road so perhaps someone might like to open a restaurant in it, rather than be upset that there isn't one there. Imagine if a group of people got together and decided to do something about it... look at Bonnington Square in Vauxhall... a tucked away garden square that no-one knows about with a fabulous cafe where the residents (of expensive privately owned homes before the "oh don't go all kibbutz like on us" brigade pipe up) take it in turns to cook! Amazing really. What's even more amazing, is that we think it's amazing!

Southwark have a fairly balanced policy towards businesses in the area and all things considered, they ride the tightrope pretty well of keeping the affluent and less affluent communites served. Everyone has gripes and fair enough. They say you can't please everyone, but that's in some way down to the fact that some people just don't want to be pleased. If they were, there'd be nothing to complain about. And then what would they do?

I don't know the whole future for Tower Bridge Road. There used to be that cool funky shop next to Barclays selling ethnic bits'n'bobs and housey trinkets - it was SO before it's time. But doubtless those places will come again. Good opportunity now I'd say - I'm not a commercial agent but I can't imagine rents being that steep down there. As you say, there's nothing there! Get in while you can. If you live there and you honestly believe there's potential, then see how many of your neighbours feel the same and then play a game of transformation. Hey why not. This forum would be a good place to put out some feelers.

Let me know how it goes, and if you want some help of course.
Friday 13 December 2002 5.07pm

Thanks - plenty of food for thought if you'll pardon the pun.

I have contacted one or two chains but they were too short sighted to even investigate the area - I'll keep chipping away, as you say it's a golden opportunity to get in now.

Thanks and have a great weekend all.
Saturday 14 December 2002 8.39am
Don't know if anyone has noticed, but there is a derilict little building in the far corner of the little park in Bermondsey street (with the tennis courts)

It would be a great location for a tennis-club-house or cafe with outside seating... even Pizza Express could do something nice with it.

Also, could someone open up a nice noodle-bar in the property that used to house the 'Honest Cabbage'

that's my xmas list for the area for the moment...

Merry Xmas everyone !

Wednesday 18 December 2002 5.56pm
Like Biscuit Boy I had wondered about lots of empty commercial buildings - but I had noticed them all along Southwark St. I hope this won't stop the very ugly St Christopher's House being knocked down. With the Erotic Gherkin and Riverside House both having problems with tenants, what about More London?

I think it is interesting to compare SE1 with Clerkenwell and Shoreditch. There are similarities - though we've got the river (ecept on the OKR of course). SE1 has lots of great places but they're quite spread out. There's no centre like Clerkenwell Green or Hoxton Square (I know that 's not in Shoreditch). Perhaps SE1's lack of unity as an area and lack of focal points stem from being carved up by railway arches and two mainline stations. Should the council try to create a focal around Borough Higt St perhaps or connected with the River around Clink Street - to make themm destinations to which the Time Out reader would travel?

As Paul says this is still a changing area - it used to be somewhere which only had public sector housing. Hopefully our supermarket, cinema and swimming pool will come soon. Why we don't have late night bars is a more difficult one - are property prices too high for the younger set? Are students too poor these days. I wonder if there just not a sufficient market for them without outsiders - lots of locals might go every now and again but not enough would be regulars? On second thoughts do we want the sort of posey places in SE1 that there are in Shoreditch?
Saturday 11 January 2003 4.43pm
Really interesting reading all this stuff. I've lived all over se1 in the last few years - bankside, buttlers wharf, southwark park rd and now just off bermondsey st. If se1 becomes all trendiefied then i'll never be able to afford to live in this lovely bit of London, I'm really worried about the rents being too high after all the stuff near the GLC building gets built.

I work up near Old st/ hoxton and i think all the 'trendy' bars are a bit naff. They get really crouded really early, and you can't sit down or talk (I'm only 23... not 83 ...). However, it would be nice to have a few more places that are not quite bars or pubs but somewhere in between... they do that well in shorditch sometimes.

to David, loads of my mates are students and a few of them live down here, but usually go into central London to go out. I can think of a couple of late bars near by, but often they won't let people in after say 12 - like the czar bar. I was amazed when places like st. christophers inn started charging... and telling me i couldn't come in because i had trainors on!
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