Midtown

Midtown, Camden

A collective term for the Holborn and south Bloomsbury areas – and perhaps beyond

Procter House - Procter Street - EG Focus

“NY Times takes space in Midtown for new HQ” ran a headline in Property Week in December 2014. This was not a reference to devel­op­ments in Manhattan but to the New York Times Company’s proposed new UK head­quar­ters at 18 Museum Street in Blooms­bury.

In a London context, the term ‘Midtown’ made its first appear­ance sometime around 1990. Ever since then, respected bloggers like Christo­pher Fowler (among many others) have been ridi­culing it and insisting that it never will (or never did) catch on. And yet it refuses to go away – unlike failed inven­tions such as ‘Cityside’ and ‘Noho’.

The reason for its appeal to real estate devel­opers, letting agents and property jour­nal­ists is obvious: ‘Midtown’ is an inter­na­tion­ally recog­nis­able concept. Even if you know nothing at all about London – let alone how to spell or pronounce ‘Holborn’ – ‘Midtown’ sounds like a good place to be.

Its precise where­abouts, however, is uncertain – if one accepts that it exists at all. Having first taken root somewhere around the southern end of Procter Street, it has since expanded in all direc­tions, but espe­cially north-westwards and along major thor­ough­fares. Some extrem­ists define Midtown as the whole area between the City and the West End.

Estab­lished in 2005, the Midtown business improve­ment district orig­i­nally covered most of the area shown on the map below and a few parts beyond. Now called BEE Midtown, it has expanded its remit to include St Giles, Farringdon and Clerken­well. This is almost as big an area as that repre­sented by the Midtown business club, which wildly asserts that “the Midtown area of London broadly extends to Euston Road in the north, the Thames in the south, Farringdon Street/Road in the east and Trafalgar Square/Tottenham Court Road in the west.”

Hidden London: Sicilian Avenue
Sicilian Avenue was created in 1905-10 for the Bedford Estate

Midtown’s biggest employers have histor­i­cally been govern­ment agencies and profes­sional services providers like insurers, lawyers, accoun­tants and recruit­ment consul­tants – but the marketing hype has succeeded in luring more glamorous busi­nesses, espe­cially in the media sector.

When Midtown first began to take off, the resur­gence of this often over­looked area was driven by rela­tively compet­i­tive rents. Much has changed in the past couple of decades. Research conducted in summer 2014 by the property consul­tants CBRE revealed that Midtown was outper­forming the rest of the central London leasing market. The Evening Stan­dard’s Jonathan Prynn later proclaimed that “Midtown is boomtown” – adding that “a cluster of hip hotels, slick devel­op­ments and rapidly rising rents mean the area east of Oxford Street has finally arrived.”

Postal districts: WC1 and WC2
Twitter: MidtownLDN
Further reading: Peter Watts: In defence of Midtown

 

* The picture of Procter House, Procter Street, on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright EG Focus, at Flickr, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. The picture of Sicilian Avenue is adapted from an original photograph, copyright John Lord, also at Flickr, made available under the Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of those licences.