Living out of a suite
There will be spa facilities, valet parking and cinema rooms – not unusual for serviced apartments. But the residents of these Chinese-inspired apartments can also order “in-home dining”, a cleaner and a “turn-down” service to change sheets, towels, take care of dry cleaning and freshen up the flowers.
The residents’ bar in the River Tower
The Wanda Vista will have its own banqueting hall, additional top-end restaurants and a sky bar on the 18th floor – all at the disposal of both guests and full-time residents, who will enter the shared building through two different but equally grand entrances.
On the 19th floor there will be a private lounge for those who live in the apartments, and an observation deck on the 42nd floor with views towards the City and beyond.
“This is a rare offering in the London market,” says Tim Gawthorn, sales and marketing director at Wanda One. “The apartments have a direct link to the hotel – no other hotel group has done this yet in London.”
Similar developments – sometimes also known as branded apartments – are usually either a tie-up between residential developments and neighbouring hotels, or much smaller-scale projects, he says.
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As well as a crèche and other childcare facilities, and a golf simulator room for guests and residents, Wanda is rolling out another of its core products – a luxury karaoke bar, open to hotel guests, residents and available for private hire.
This is the first time the developer and hotelier has exported the all-singing, all-dancing entertainment suite, which has been the basis for much of the company’s success in China.
The Wanda Vista luxury karaoke bar will be available for private hire, guests and residents
The rise of hotel-homes in London
The River Tower, all 530ft of it, will be the second of the two Wanda towers on the south bank. It is due to be completed by the end of 2018 at the earliest.
Its sister scheme – the purely residential City Tower – is just a stone’s throw away, also part of the Nine Elms regeneration project.
An advertising campaign for flats in the River Tower – to be sold off-plan – will be launched in the UK tomorrow, before moving overseas to Beijing, Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Prices are expected to start at about £1.3m.
The concept of homes linked to hotels is relatively new to the UK, but already well known in Asia and the United States.
One recent report, from the Mayfair estate agent Wetherell, said it is becoming harder to distinguish between hotels and apartments in these buildings, with the design and experience merging into one.
“Branded residences are beginning to penetrate the market,” says Peter Wetherell, the managing director. “These are stunning listings attached to some of London’s highest-profile redevelopments. They offer the ultimate in synergy – ultra-luxury hotels with an additional wing or section of private sale or serviced apartments.”
Even the cost of buying an apartment associated with a luxury brand – even without the services – will put the price of a flat in one of these schemes beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest buyers – usually from abroad.
“When not using their listing themselves they can choose to let it privately (usually on a long lease) or in some cases let it through the hotel (at a cost),” says Mr Wetherell.
Penny Mosgrove, the chief executive of Quintessentially Estates, agrees that the typical buyers of such five-star homes are usually from overseas. “Hotel luxury living appeals to overseas markets much more than domestic – they are used to this type of living and want to replicate it. They tend to sell to people who use it as a pied-à-terre so they know the flat is secure while they are away.”
According to Mark Dorman, head of London Residential Development at Strutt & Parker, these apartments are worth 10 per cent more than equivalent developments with no services or big-name hotel.
However, if the hotel brand becomes fashionable – and the block with it – the premium could rise to as much as 20 per cent.
Linked to the Mandarin Oriental, One Hyde Park, the Knightsbridge complex overlooking Hyde Park has been the standout hotel and apartments tie-up at the very top of the market. Flats there sell for £6,000 per square foot.
One Hyde Park on the right of the picture in Knightsbridge
Other examples of the “living out of a suite” phenomenon in London are the W London at Leicester Square, the Bulgari apartments in Knightsbridge, and the Corinthia hotel and homes in Whitehall.
There are 41 private residences at Ten Trinity Square, in the City, which has a link with the Four Seasons hotel, and the Shard at London Bridge contains homes and the Shangri-La hotel.
Images of Ten Trinity Square near Tower Bridge
What next for luxury London?
For Mr Dorman, the Wanda River Tower will offer the first hotel-homes in London at a slightly lower price point. “New York has been doing this for years at the mid-to-high price point. There, if a scheme is not attached to a hotel brand, it feels strange. This Wanda scheme is groundbreaking in London – this hotel service has not been available to listing owners below the £2,000 per sq ft price point until now,” he says.
Scale is the other factor that makes the River Tower stand out. “This is the first project to be done in the world on a similar scale to Trump Soho, the tower in New York,” says Mr Dorman.
The Donald Trump building, which was opened in 2010, is both a hotel and a set of private condos.
The American businessman and billionaire, Donald Trump
Many developers have not not built hotel-style apartments, mainly because of how complicated the space is, adds Mr Dorman.
“Hotels need a huge amount of space behind the scenes such as luggage areas, kitchens and service rooms, which is very expensive to deliver in terms of construction” – and in London invariably means going subterranean.
The joint agents CBRE and Strutt & Parker think the Chinese-styled Wanda Vista apartments will attract both domestic and overseas buyers.
“It will appeal to the lawyer who is working until 9.30pm every night trying to become a partner,” continues Mr Dorman.
“It’s for busy working people who need to get in from work but still want to have a life afterwards and can afford a £1m flat.
“They can get home from work, order a cold bottle of wine and lobster then sit on their balcony before going for late night drinks or dinner at a table booked by the concierge. It’s a different level of service.”
A lobster supper on offer for residents of the Wanda Vista apartments
So, if the home owner can now order room service to the front door and live upstairs from the local, what next for the London housing market?
The arrival of the Wanda Vista on the southern bank of the Thames will not only alter the London skyline but could also trigger a wave of branded residences in the mainstream market, Mr Wetherell explains.
“What’s most exciting in my opinion is the significant potential for this to expand into a four-star and three-star format,” he says.
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