Whether you’re a hipster who is part of this area of London’s creative hub, a digital native working on or near Silicon Roundabout or seeking an easy commute to a job in the City, the majority of people seeking a home in the byword for urban cool that is Shoreditch will find themselves living in a flat.
Shoreditch has a higher proportion of single, multi-person and student-only households than average in the London Borough of Hackney.
But it is not just the fact that the majority of Shoreditch’s population – which includes a growing number of the gay community – is aged under 40 that explains why around 80% of residential housing in the E1 postcode is made up of flats.
Loft life and warehouse conversions
The area’s industrial heritage, which between the latter part of the 19th century and the early 1900s saw the building of a large number of warehouses around the maze of small streets and railway bridges that characterise this corner of east London, provided property developers with the opportunity to create homes that are the ultimate in urban cool.
Some of Shoreditch’s most desirable properties are the large warehouse conversions that started to be created in the 1990s when the creative crowd, led by Brit art stars Tracy Emin and Damian Hirst, moved to this part of London in search of ultra-cheap living and working space.
The appetite for warehouse conversions shows no sign of diminishing. In December 2014, a 32,550m2 project to create office space, 13 shops and 40 apartments as well as around 1,400m2 of new public space, including a new pedestrian route running from Commercial Street to Shoreditch High Street, was unveiled by developer British Land.
Many of the latest schemes incorporate commercial and public space, but the larger and more desirable conversions that have been built in the past 20-plus years take their cues from the industrial heritage that led to the creation of the predominantly red-brick buildings.
As a result, many contain masses of exposed brickwork, large windows, original, character features and open-plan living spaces. One example is Shepherdess Walk Buildings, a Victorian creation that was converted in the mid-1990s and now has both a large roof terrace and underground parking.
A range of new-build smaller developments have also appeared in the past decade. Although many of these developments do not offer the space provided by warehouse conversions, they do make up a good proportion of one- and two-bedrooms homes available in the area.
The future of new homes in Shoreditch
But the supply of former industrial buildings in Shoreditch is not unlimited and developers have now set their sights on building Canary Wharf-style tower blocks in Bishopsgate Goodsyard.
While the plan for the 47-storey and 43-storey towers have come under attack from Hackney Mayor Jules Pipe, who fears this type of development will erase Shoreditch’s rough-around-the-edges charm.
Pipe has previously warned that “these luxury flats will cast a shadow over the whole of Tech City and threaten to damage the local creative economy”. But as Shoreditch continues to rise in popularity, the next round of property development in the area could see the building of modern high-rise blocks offering unrivalled views over the City of London.
Other types of property in Shoreditch
Shoreditch and the areas within five minutes’ walk of its galleries, bars and fashion outlets suffers from a shortage of period properties that characterize the housing stock of many other parts of the capital.
As far back as 1902, Charles Booth wrote: “The great change during the last 10 years has been the displacement of dwelling houses by warehouses and factories, the last to leave the more central parts being the very poor or the inhabitants of model dwellings. (They) have been forced further afield, often going as far as Tottenham or Walthamstow.”
Even in the late 1800s, Shoreditch was described as a “blend of small tenement houses and modern business premises which is characteristic of Shoreditch”.
However, by 1905 novelist Ford Madox Ford described Shoreditch as being inhabited by “an intangible cloudlike population of white-faced misery.”
This is explained by the fact that in Victorian times, London’s property boom saw the building of row upon row of through houses and back-to-back properties – a through house divided into two, so it was only one room deep and joined to the house behind.
But few of these properties survived past 1945 following Shoreditch being a target for German bombing raids during World War Two.
Of the period properties still standing in the area, many have been converted into flats as Shoreditch was overlooked by home-makers from the 1950s until the early hipsters took advantage of its cheap rents in the 1990s.
There are a few notable exceptions. The Boundary Estate, with its red-brick Arts & Crafts-influenced tenement blocks radiating off Arnold Circus, lays claim to being the first council estate. It was built between 1890 and 1900 by the Metropolitan Board of Works and completed by London County Council, which was formed in 1889.
Homes in the heart of the Shoreditch Triangle, between Old Street, Shoreditch High Street and Great Eastern Street, are also sought after, as are the few remaining classic London townhouses, 1830s terraces on Shepherdess Walk and period homes on Charlotte Road.
Image credit: Flickr.com (Henry77, John-4, Samuuel, Tob88)