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Jane Hughes Writer, editor, yoga teacher

Art and property

Mail on Sunday, April 2006

In the days of Victorian philanthropy, great industrialists like sugar magnate Henry Tate became patrons of the arts. Today, property developers are getting in on the act - introducing galleries, artworks and even artists' studios into their housing schemes in a bid to attract residents, add value and elevate their brand.

The latest of these 21st century ventures is Chelsea Futurespace - a new gallery with soaring glass walls and high ceilings that doubles as an impressive entrance lobby at St James's Grosvenor Waterside development. Open to both residents and the public, it launched this week (((April 12))) with a specially commissioned 27ft long work entitled ‘Painting the Atlantic' by artist, Stephen Farthing RA.

Sponsored by St James and run by the Chelsea College of Art and Design, the gallery will host exhibitions of work by some of the college's high profile alumni of the last 50 years. And - once the development of more than 850 homes just north of Chelsea Bridge is completed next year - the gallery will open on to tree-lined promenades and restaurants surrounding the restored Grosvenor Dock.

Already, it has gone down a storm with residents. Jay Dhanecha, a director of recruitment firm Success Appointments, who moved to Grosvenor Waterside with his wife, Priya, a former model turned full-time mum, and their baby son, Kaden, says it looks stunning.

"Knowing that a gallery was going to open here was a definite attraction when we were thinking of buying - and we've been very excited about it since we moved from Paddington in February," he says.

"I think it brings a sense of soul and refinement to a development that is already in a magnificent location in Chelsea, around a relaxing dockside environment. For people like us who value and enjoy art and design, it's a priceless mix."

Farthing - who is Rootstein Hopkins Chair of Drawing at the University of the Arts London - was also impressed: "It's a fantastic, uplifting space with great light - it would be amazing if more developments along the Thames took on this idea."

In fact, while some developers commission public art almost as an afterthought, St James has developed an cultural strategy with art consultants Futurecity over the past five years. Two years ago, it refurbished an Edwardian water pumping station at its New River Village scheme in Hornsey and turned it into a gallery for the Royal Academy Schools. It has also amassed one of the largest public collections of contemporary sculpture in London and sponsors the Tate to Tate riverbus.

PA Natalie Parrott, 28, who bought at New River Village four months ago, says that having a gallery on site was a real draw. "I hadn't realised it was there until I went to view the flats but I thought it was great to have an RA gallery on the doorstep. The building is beautiful and it's fun to take friends round when they visit."

Back at Grosvenor Waterside, Chelsea Futurespace will be one of three major arts projects planned for the scheme, where prices currently range from £395,000 for a studio to £1.8million for a penthouse. The others will be an image by artist Clare Woods that will be etched into the aluminium cladding of a building, and a major commission from sculptor Richard Wilson.

"The gallery was a way of doing more with what was already planned as a statement reception space," says Mark Davy of FutureCity, "and because we got the go-ahead early, St James was able to increase the proportions of the space even further. "Chelsea College had just moved to new premises next to Tate Britain nearby and we felt that offering the gallery to them would give the development a buzz with an interesting mix of people coming and going."

Elsewhere, developer Widacre Homes will be showcasing works from local art gallery NinetyThree at the sales suite of its Eastside scheme in Bow, where prices for the 100 flats start at £160,000 for a studio, rising to £330,000 for a two bedroom flat.

And in Wandsworth, Frasers Property Group are turning a show flat above the sales pavilion at their Riverside Quarter development into an exhibition space for local landscape painters Sharyn Wortman and Maria Hernandez over the next five months.

Down in Peckham, Barratt took a different approach with The Galleria - a scheme of 79 private flats with adjacent artists' studios on the site of an old printworks. The groundbreaking mix came about when Barratt's initial application for a residential-only development was turned down by Southwark Council who wanted to keep local employment in the area.

Barratt then agreed to sell one block to Acme Studios, an arts charity which provides workspace for London artists, at an affordable price. And Acme has provided 47 studios for artists.

With people now moving in, prices for the remaining one and two bedroom flats in the 10-storey residential block here range from £189.995 to £285.995. For Acme, the Galleria is an important model of a mixed-use scheme providing affordable workspace which also adds value to the homes for sale. And, says Alastair Baird of Barratt East London, "it's clear that residents enjoy the idea of having a small colony of working artists as their neighbours."

The artists too are happy. Michelle Molyneux, 39, whose photo collages have been shown at the October Gallery and the Royal Festival Hall, thinks the collaboration is a really good idea.

"After the old studios - which were covered in dust - the space here is far better and cleaner, with large windows and beautiful light. I've got a view over Burgess Park and the rent is cheaper. But I think the developer could take this further and actively build links between artists and residents."