Comment: Shoreditch, schools and sky-high prices... What does Gabriel Square really offer buyers?

The garden square includes a mix of public and private access lawns

The garden square includes a mix of public and private access lawns - Credit: Archant

Gabriel Square – arguably St Albans’ most anticipated new development ever – is launching this week.

The development comprises of 80 swanky new homes

The development comprises of 80 swanky new homes - Credit: Archant

Its proudly modernist design has divided opinion – some have fallen in love with its clean lines, with the Sunday Times likening it to the Barbican. Others find its Eastern Bloc-esque architecture a turn off.

Whatever you think about the way it looks, there’s no denying that the location is unbeatable for many, with the City station and the town centre both just minutes away. The development has also helped rejuvenate the overall look and feel of London Road – so long run down and tired, now a thriving community thanks in no small part to the Odyssey and surrounding businesses, such as Charlie’s coffee shop, Prime steak restaurant and the Beer Shop – all popular new additions in recent years.

Simon Kindcaid, director of Conran and Partners – designers of the swish interiors at Gabriel Square - told the Sunday Times that this part of St Albans “could easily be Shoreditch or Peckham”.

The prices wouldn’t be out of place in these fashionable areas of London, either. Gabriel Square includes 28 flats and duplexes and 52 townhouses, and prices start at £475,000 for a one-bed flat and £1,195,000 for a townhouse – a bargain in some parts of London, but high end by St Albans standards.

While working on the design, Kindcaid said that Conran made up some characters that they imagined might live at the development. One example is a thirty-something couple with young children. “They’re looking for a larger home for a growing family, with an outdoor area and close to good schools,” he said.

Proximity to good schools is no guarantee of a place however, and families who’ve struggled to get their children into nearby primaries from the surrounding roads have questioned this particular selling point.

As many parents have already noted, the pressure on over-subscribed local state schools will only increase as Gabriel Square fills up. Not the developer’s fault, but certainly something families making the move out of the capital might like to consider.

Like Peckham and Shoreditch, St Albans is far from perfect, but Gabriel Square has a lot to offer locals and Londoners in search of a shiny new slice of suburbia - if they can afford it.