The capital’s empty luxury apartment blocks stand as living metaphors for a once great city’s broken priorities
Ask Siri to show you the state of London’s housing market in a single image, and she’ll confidently present you with a picture of Centre Point.
Centre Point, that brutalist tower block when you come out of Tottenham Court Road tube, you know, near Primark.
The one homelessness campaigners occupied when it stood empty in 1974, rough sleepers sheltering under the ground floor, leading to the charity borrowing its name and it becoming a concrete monument to the plight of the homeless.
Centre Point, where, in 2015, flats were put on the market for £1.8m, rising to £55m for the penthouse, with its views through the Centre Point sign and down on London’s smog below, a horizon continually being razed to dust and rebuilt in the glass.
Developers reported the first apartments had been sold at the asking price, including one that went for £5m to the parents of a Chinese student due to start at UCL this term.
And I feel for her. I do. I can picture her, lonely, sitting in the empty residents’ bar or spa after lectures, as half the apartments remain unsold.
I can imagine the silence, the double-glazed, deafening silence of a largely uninhabited tower block opposite the theatre showing Bat Out of Hell – it would have the dense soft texture of a hotel towelling robe.
But rather than lowering the price to attract other buyers, developers have chosen to take the unsold flats off the market and keep them empty, claiming the offers they’ve received are “detached from reality”.