Many residential developments these days have an on-site gym or pool as standard. But a new breed of luxury development also offers a spa, bar and games room. A Times article in September drew attention to builds that go further to cater for wellness-conscious residents — ‘nearly a fifth’ of the market, according to a survey by Strutt & Parker. The Goodman’s Fields development near Aldgate in east London has an on-site boxing club, and for those shelling out upwards of £800,000 for an apartment at Queen’s Wharf in Hammersmith, there’s a yoga terrace with a Thames view.
But this trend goes beyond physical fitness. It’s about residents having it every which way. I recently visited Lillie Square, the development on Sir Terry Farrell’s 77-acre Earls Court regeneration site, where the Exhibition Centre once stood. It was opening its Clubhouse, which is a cross between a members’ club and a health club, exclusive to residents. One area has a communal space with a bar where people can have a drink or get on with some work, a private cinema, a dining room for private parties and a climate-controlled wine cellar. The other is a spa.
For a few hours I put the facilities through their paces: pool, sauna, jacuzzi, fancy gym equipment. I also went the whole hog with beauty treatments and pampering: massage, blow-dry, my first (and last) spray tan. Residents can book these treatments and sessions through the ‘Lillie App’, along with the complex’s concierge service. There’s a quintessentially English twang to the brands partnered with the development: Aston Martin car club; Selfridges for personal shopping; Berry Bros & Rudd for wine — for advice on something immediately drinkable or on which bottles to lay down.
The benefits and partnerships continue off-site. Around the corner, the Harwood Arms, London’s only Michelin-starred pub, is usually booked up months in advance. Lillie residents can expect to jump the queue for lunch. The idea is that those living at the development have an ecosystem on their doorstep that caters to whatever needs can’t be satisfied within. A three–bedroom apartment with a view of the garden square will set you back £2 million.
The market is moving towards everything being carefully selected for residents’ comfort and convenience. Harry Philpott at Savills told me he has seen an increase in the number of buyers who want more flexibility. ‘They want a gym, but one at which they can book classes for when it suits them,’ he said. ‘People want these amenities on their doorstep — hotel-style amenities. And there’s an increasing desire to do every-thing from the palm of your hand, to be able to book a class that morning on your phone. The future holds more of that.’ Indeed, in an age in which apps such as Uber, Deliveroo and Tinder have an increasing role in shaping the current generation’s life and free time, it seems luxury living is following suit.
An early 2016 study by Chris Graham of Graham Associates, Branded Residences: an Overview, identified that many buyers in the top layer of the property market want to combine their own space with the 24/7 trappings of a five-star hotel. In the decade up to 2012, the number of hotels partnering with residential developments — lending them brand recognition, inspiring their services and taking home a royalty — multiplied by ten. Cody Bradshaw of the Starwood Capital Group called it one of the most ‘promising and under-supplied real estate sectors in London today’. This study was written before the Brexit vote struck a blow to the London housing market’s confidence. But this has had only a slight impact at the high end of the spectrum: in the next five years expect a massive spurt in this type of residence.
The 30-storey Dumont on Albert Embankment Plaza, which is under construction, will have a games room with a bowling alley and a roof terrace modelled on the Ham Yard Hotel rooftop. White City Living in west London has a karaoke room. Residents of Twickenham’s Brewery Gate can get steaks and cocktails from M restaurants delivered to their door via an app. Buying into the new Chelsea Island will allow you to commission new art works to hang in your flat from independent contemporary artists via the design studio McKay Williamson. And in a more rarefied stratosphere still, those who are inclined to pay upwards of £8 million for a piece of No 1 Grosvenor Square in Mayfair will have experts from Sotheby’s advising them what art to buy.
The modern city person has been moulded by the world of apps for convenience and instant gratification. Why wouldn’t the property sector move in such a direction and supersize the concept to fit the times?