diamond geezer

 Saturday, March 25, 2017

Although the revamped Battersea Power Station isn't due to reopen until 2020, a scrap of landscaped riverfront has reopened alongside the first adjacent flats. As yet there's bugger all to do apart from own an apartment, or gawp, but by the summer several shops, restaurants and cafes will have moved in and Circus West Village will have been born. The marketing team describe this as "London’s newest food destination", which vastly overstates the scale of what's planned, but it is already possible to wander in off the street and see for yourself.

The sole access point, at present, is on the south side of Chelsea Bridge, immediately opposite the entrance to the (much more enjoyable) Battersea Park. Proceed past the bastion of Berkeley Homes and the private clinic to reach the underside of Grosvenor Bridge, part of the main railway out of Victoria station. Here a security guy will eye you up and down in case you're undesirable - don't worry, they didn't mind me, you'll pass.

A cycle hire stand is already up and running beneath the fairy lights, as well as a red telephone box with a touchscreen video display inside. The volume's a bit too loud and the sound distorts, but the films and stories about the power station are nicely done. Come back soon and the adjacent temporary exhibition space should be ready - they were still putting up the panels when I passed by. But don't expect to read anywhere about just how many trains rattle by and quite how close. If it's half as loud in the adjacent flats as it is under the arches, I'd recommend buying a property elsewhere.

Step through and you're in Circus West Village proper, if it's right to describe a piazza overlooked by a wall of glass as a village. I'd say it isn't, but that's not the only delusional claim round here.
In what is one of the most important years in the history of Battersea Power Station, the Battersea Power Station team is pleased to confirm the first new shops, restaurants and cafés moving into the first phase, Circus West Village opening summer 2017.
The pedestrianised 'street' to your right is currently sealed off while the individual railway arches are fitted out. One will be a sourdough pizzeria, another a gin distillery attraction, another a brunch'n'burger canteen. There'll also be a Village Hall, designed as a community hub in conjunction with the excellent Battersea Arts Centre, although I suspect most future residents will be more at home in the oyster restaurant round the corner. You can get a fairly good idea of the intended populace from a massive illustration near the Marketing Suite depicting an everyday scene outside the 'Battersea General Store'. Every single person in the picture is white, every single person in the picture is under 40, only three are male... this place aims to be the unashamed epitome of nouveau posh.

Circus West is the reason you can't see the power station from the railway any more, a residential block longer than the Shard is high, perched on top of a two-storey commercial podium. Residents in the prime Thamesside flats have a fully-glazed conservatory where you'd expect to find a balcony, a narrow sun trap which unfortunately faces north so won't be seeing a lot of sun. Underneath will be the boringly-titled No 29 Power Station West, described on its hoarding as "a pub for the 21st century", although the artist's illustration outside better resembles a posh Georgian drawing room. Meanwhile "Your Vibrant Local Eatery" will be hosted by Pedler Cru, while the final unit is marked "New Exciting Concept Coming Soon" which can only mean it hasn't been successfully let.

Given that nothing retail is open yet, best make the most of the available public realm. A fang-shaped piazza rises up towards the dead-end edge of the power station, with semi-stepped terraces and gently sloping paving. Its most impressive features are two geometric pools, mirror-flat unless it's windy, with water gently cascading over the rim into unseen drains. A handful of swish chunky wooden chairs have been provided alongside each, an ideal amount of seating for current visitor levels, but likely to be overwhelmed later.

For now the highlight is the opportunity to see the old electric cathedral up close. Its lofty facade looms over all, with two chimneys rebuilt, another nearing completion, and the last original now demolished. Only the shell of the power station building remains, with a new penthouse roof yet to arise, and with offices, cinemas and other commercial magnets destined to be slotted within. Circus West Village is only a tiny fraction of all that's planned, but probably a good indication that this extensive redeveloped quarter of SW8 will be somewhere to enjoy spending your money, assuming you have more than enough.

A painted hoarding blocks off access to what will eventually be Power Station Park, six acres of partially-turfed open space adjacent to the Thames. Its main purpose is to ensure that there's at least one direction from which the silhouette of Battersea Power Station is still visible, rather than being smothered by a fortress of residential development. For now however the park is a huge deep hole in the ground, as can be seen if you climb a brief ramp and peer over the side. What the hell will they be burying down there, will it be basements or utilities or car parking, or is it simply currently a very useful place to plonk a crane?

One day the entire Thames waterfront will be opened up, connecting Battersea Bridge to Vauxhall Bridge along the south bank of the river for the very first time. Later this summer Thames Clippers will be dropping by, as part of a fresh waterbus connection to the centre of town. And this weekend you can come down and see for yourself, as part of a special Mother's Day event with free pizza, free coffee, a performer with a big hoop and some bubble mixture, and a biscuit decorating drop-in workshop. I say don't rush. But you will be down here eventually, the whole of London will be down here eventually, so why not get the heads-up early?

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