California-native Tracy Hughes has lived everywhere from Hawaii to Bali during her property career, but has called London home since 2012.
The Residential Sales Director of development firm Almacantar is on her second stint of living in London and is clear on what’s drawn her back.
“To me, London has it all,” says Tracy. “It’s a modern city that’s steeped in tradition and heritage. Culturally, there isn’t anywhere else to rival it in my eyes. The art, the theatre, the food – the best of everything is going on here. I can walk through beautiful parks on my way to work and see the Royal Horseguards riding past. I can explore a new neighbourhood every weekend…in fact, that 17th century quote about being bored with life if you’re bored with London holds totally true for me.”
It’s an enthusiasm that carries through into her work as she describes the large, complex projects that Almacantar is delivering across prime central London.
“Since Almacantar launched in 2010, the focus has always been on the best zone one locations,” she explains. “The challenge in such a competitive marketplace is to identify those opportunities that other developers might overlook. Perhaps because they are too complicated, or there are planning obstacles, for example. This is where Almacantar has been able to add value, whether gentrifying a forgotten corner or changing the use of a landmark property to open up an area to a new audience.”
The firm’s redevelopment of Centre Point is a case in point. Located at what had long been considered the unfashionable end of Oxford Street, this listed former office building now contains 82 apartments with some of the best views in town. The site also has 45,500 sq ft of high-end retail at street level and, thanks to the new Crossrail station adjacent to the development, superfast links to Heathrow, the City and Canary Wharf.
“It’s opened up this corner of the West End as a place to live,” says Tracy. “It’s at the axis of Soho, Bloomsbury, Fitzrovia and Covent Garden, yet it was considered too problematic a site to tackle by many. With the transformation, nearly complete, the architecture and public realm have come together to create a new destination address.”
At the other end of Oxford Street, the company is embarking on a project that is similarly high profile but positioned for a Mayfair rather than a Soho audience. Marble Arch Place features 54 ultra-luxurious residences at The Bryanston and 95,000 sq ft of commercial and retail space. Having overcome the complex planning issues associated with the site, the company is aiming for a 2020 delivery date.
“The development will offer incredible views of Hyde Park,” reports Tracy. “The residences are at that point where you transition from the hustle and bustle of Mayfair to the tranquillity of the open space, so it’s going to have a Central Park feel to it where you’re almost floating above the greenery.
When Mike Hussey our Chief Executive talks about the development, he says that ‘Mayfair just got a little bigger’.” Tracy finishes by explaining that the contrast in the positioning of Centre Point and Marble Arch Place is a feature of Almacantar’s work.
“We don’t have a house style,” she says. “We respond to the location, so in a place like central London with its different ‘villagey’ neighbourhoods, we are doing something different every time. And that’s another reason for me why this city could never get boring.”