Anne Currell, CEO at Currell, is a long term resident in Hackney and passionate lover and supporter of the arts. In this extended interview with DBPR she explains why the future looks bright for property in Hackney; why Hackney Wick Fish Island is taking a leap forward and what makes the area a melting pot of creativity, energy and connectivity.
What are the key factors that make Hackney appealing as a place to live?
Hackney offers good value relative to comparable areas in north and west London, supported by excellent public transport from the extension of the Overground rail network. The area encapsulates the perfect blend of inner city living – it’s vibrant, eclectic and has an edgy energetic vibe.
Hackney is a melting pot of creativity which attracts the young who form a large part of the diverse local population. It’s the greenest inner London borough, and this draws in young families who also seek out the excellent local schools.
Hackney is exciting, creative and connected – what’s not to like?
What’s on the property menu and who’s buying?
There’s a wide range of property; from Victorian villas and terraces to Georgian properties, warehouse conversions and striking contemporary new build apartments. Many properties are available to buy through shared ownership (3,500 shared ownership homes are currently being delivered in the borough). Eligible social housing tenants can also purchase their local authority homes the via the Right to Buy scheme.
The area attracts professionals typically working in the law, media, the City and creative industries, and blue and white collar workers in the state and private sectors, notably in service industries for the City. People who move to Hackney tend to remain in the area, gradually moving up the property ladder from flat to small house to a larger property.
Prices have risen dramatically over the last couple of decades. Hackney has outperformed all other London boroughs, rising from 28th to 9th in average property price. It is the only East London borough in the top ten in terms of prices, and the only one with prices higher than the average for London. According to the latest Land Registry figures the average property price in Hackney is £589,748 – 22% above the London average of £483,568.
What’s new in the area?
The London Fields area has become very popular. It has an appealing mix of new and old, with several new developments currently on the market. Heads are being turned by the strong emergence of Hackney Wick, where a large volume of homes under construction and for sale off-plan has led Currell to be the first agent to set up shop in the area. Our newly opened Hackney Wick Fish Island office is a natural extension of our already very strong position in East London and our track record of working in regeneration areas.
In the 90s Hackney Wick had the largest number of artists’ studios in Europe, sitting alongside industrial buildings which replaced the Victorian housing lost in the Blitz. I’ve lived in Hackney for over 30 years and have a passion for art, so being part of the modern tale of Hackney Wick; to see new homes created whilst retaining the artistic fabric of the area is particularly exciting.
What impact are new developments having on the area?
Across the area, positive changes are happening with the transformation of unused ex-industrial sites into new homes and commercial spaces. We have already seen this happen in London Fields and now Hackney Wick and Fish Island are being transformed on a much larger scale. We are seeing the emergence of rejuvenated communities, with growing populations and an increasing number of small local business. Many of these are artisan producers – there are a lot of new coffee roasters, bakers and brewers – and there is a thriving bar, restaurant and entertainment scene.
London Fields is a haven for coffee lovers and beer drinkers. Beavertown Brewery started in Downham Road and London Fields Brewery is based in London Fields. Broadway Market is the must-do destination event at weekends, its many stalls and independent shops foster a positive culture of creativity.
What are your predictions for the 2018 rental and sales market in Hackney?
We expect Hackney to remain a desirable residential area, popular with young professionals and those working in the creative industries. Demand for property, both for purchase and rental, should therefore remain strong, although price levels will depend on whether the government is able to offer sufficient measures boost confidence in the property market and to offset Brexit uncertainty. Affordability remains a challenge, and the Help to Buy scheme is important for many buyers in the borough. The price cap of £600,000 means many properties qualify.
Q: Which are your favourite galleries in East London and why?
The Flowers Gallery on Kingsland Road contains a fantastic collection of contemporary international photography. The Victoria Miro gallery on Wharf Road is also a favourite – with really innovative artists and some of the best emerging talent from around the world.
My husband Chris Currell is a trustee of Space Studios, which provides affordable creative workspaces around London. This has led to a growing trend for open studios, where artists open their doors to showcase and sell their work. This is especially popular in Hackney Wick, with its thriving artistic community. Stour Space, Mother Studio, Bridget Riley Studios, Swan Wharf and V22 are just a few that have taken part in this concept, and there is constantly new and exciting work emerging. I’m also looking forward to Gilbert & George’s new gallery space opening at a former brewery off Brick Lane.
Q: Which five restaurants would you choose to dine out in East London?
We’re spoilt in Hackney, as it there are so many to choose from, with a steady stream of new restaurants which I like to try out. One newcomer I really like is Les Nenettes in Clapton which is great for brunch and dinner, and feels just like a real French bistro.
Berber and Q in a railway arch near Haggerston station is great for dinner with friends, it has a very atmospheric interior and excellent grilled meat and vegetarian dishes (try the amazing cauliflower shawarma) but you need to get there early as you can’t book and it gets busy.
Duke’s Brew and Cue is another popular local which is – it’s the home of Beavertown Brewery and has a large selection of craft beers as well as excellent cocktails. The atmosphere is relaxed and the BBQ meat portions are very generous.
Another favourite of mine is Morito on Hackney Road – its run by the amazing chefs (and married couple) Sam and Sam Clark. I loved their first restaurant Moro, in Exmouth Market, so I was delighted when they opened up Morito in Hackney. The menu is tapas and mezze and the restaurant is a great light and airy space.
Finally, I have to mention Hackney Wick, where a great selection of places to eat and drink have popped up along the canal at Here East over the last year. I can recommend Shane’s on Canalside – this small local business (they also own Shane’s on Chatsworth in Clapton) showcases seasonal British food and local produce, and has a very friendly vibe.
Q: Secret gems are peppered across East London, from quirky boutiques to artisan foodie stores; without giving too much away, name five special shopping haunts and why they appeal?
69b is a fantastic boutique on Broadway Market that specialises in sustainable style. It’s full of independent brands, and when you shop there you can be sure your purchase has been made in a socially/environmentally responsible way. They ask all their brands “who made your stuff?” which I love.
Just down the road from here, tucked away next to the Greek orthodox church on Mare Street is a candle factory shop which sells the best quality church candles. It’s easy to miss – just look for the shed in the car park!
I also love concept stores that do more than just sell their products, like Bonds on Gransden Avenue. It’s a shop, coffee spot, and event space with a great variety of independent brands selling homeware, lifestyle, and food products.
Another favourite homeware place of mine is The Peanut Vendor, which sells vintage furniture, specializing in the early to late 20th century. They restock weekly and things sell really quickly, so it’s best to sign up to their mailing list if you want the top picks.
Lastly, Eastern Biological is a quirky little shop on Hackney Road. It’s London’s first independent natural history gift and concept lifestyle store, that dubs itself as a modern day ‘curiosity shop’ selling art prints, popular science books, educational toys, and gifts. It’s got some really quirky products, for both kids and adults.
Q: What’s your favourite building in Hackney and why?
I love so many old and new buildings that I can’t really choose a favourite. But one of the best is Bruno Court – this Bauhaus inspired art deco block towers over the Victorian terraces of Fassett Square. It was built in 1935-6 as an extension to the nearby German Hospital which dates back to 1845, and was very sympathetically converted into flats in 1999 by architects Burnet, Tait & Lorne, Currell sold the flats initially, but the residents love it so flats rarely come up for sale. The stunning panoramic view from the roof is one of the best-kept secrets in Hackney. As most locals know, Fassett Square was the inspiration for the design of EastEnders’ Albert Square.
Q: If you could have a chat over the best cup of coffee in East London with anyone (alive or dead), who would it be and where would you go and why?
I would go to E5 bakery in the railway arches at London Fields, it’s got the best bread and coffee around. As for company, I’d love to go with Queen Elizabeth I. She’s the ultimate iconic strong woman who was the first monarch to understand the importance of respect and popularity amongst her people.
Currell: Guide to Property in Hackney – HERE
The Currell Collection – HERE
MORE FROM CURRELL
- The DBPR Interview – Anne Currell on Hackney and East London
- The need to grow the shared ownership sector – Currell
- Changing times in East London – Nicola Almond, Currell
- The impact of Crossrail on East London property