Most of the streets within the Howard de Walden Estate consist of terraces of Georgian townhouses—notable for their narrow plot widths, consistency of scale and simple grandeur—punctuated with more flamboyant Victorian and Edwardian buildings. Its retail units mainly date from around 1900: small, full of character and interspersed with the entrances to overhead residential properties.
Almost the entire Estate falls within a zone known as the Harley Street Conservation Area, which is subject to highly restrictive planning regulations. This is both a blessing and a challenge: the aesthetic value of the buildings is a major draw for tenants, but 18th century townhouses were not designed to accommodate en-suite bathrooms, telecoms infrastructure, open plan offices or modern medical facilities. This means that some modifications are essential in order for Marylebone to retain its relevance.
The Estate’s approach is all about finding an equilibrium between conservation and adaptation. Some buildings demand to be preserved in all their historic glory, with period features painstakingly restored. Others provide the latitude for more expansive changes. Few landlords are more adept at resolving the highly specialised demands of working in a conservation area to provide 21st century facilities within 18th, 19th and 20th century buildings.
At the heart of the Estate’s strategy is the belief that quality matters. Such is the visibility and impact of its work, it cannot afford to compromise.
For buildings to provide a return over the long term they must exhibit excellent design, offer the right facilities and incorporate high quality materials that will stay the course. For the best practitioners to be attracted to the Harley Street Medical Area, the medical properties have to provide the highest possible standard of facilities. For major companies to take space in the Estate’s office buildings, their needs have to be served with top class accommodation. This imperative to do things properly, to avoid cutting corners, bleeds out into everything the Estate does—its buildings, its websites, its magazine, its events.
The Estate’s approach is far-sighted and highly strategic, with an emphasis on building value over the long term rather than maximising short term profits.
The impact of this ethos is perhaps most clearly visible in the Estate’s retail sector. Rather than seeking the highest possible rents, the Estate has attempted to create a balanced and highly distinctive shopping district, packed with independent shops and restaurants: a strategy that is frequently cited as a model of good practice for British high streets. In its other core sectors—residential, office and medical—the Estate is equally determined to invest the necessary time and money to ensure sustainable growth far into the future. This means keeping a careful eye upon the balance of properties both between and within these different sectors, ensuring that the building stock is constantly improved and updated, and making informed predictions as to the nature and needs of potential tenants many years down the line.
With family ties that date back centuries, the Howard de Walden Estate takes its responsibilities as a guardian of Marylebone’s rich heritage extremely seriously.
This is evident in its approach to the upkeep of the area’s period building stock, which it oversees with great thoughtfulness and care. Over the years, the company has developed a wealth of experience and expertise relating to the upkeep of listed buildings. The creation of 21st century facilities within an 18th century building is a hugely demanding and specialised task, and one at which the Estate excels. This commitment to Marylebone’s heritage extends to the maintenance of an impressive archive and a willingness to support individuals and institutions seeking to document the area’s long and fascinating history.
All of these core values feed into the manner with which the Howard de Walden Estate carries out its business: with professionalism, integrity and openness.
The Estate wishes to be a positive force in the Marylebone community, and so conducts itself accordingly. When commissioning architects, contractors or suppliers, the Estate strives to ensure that they too will demonstrate the highest possible standards of professional behaviour. Anyone representing the Estate needs to share its values. This culture extends to the value the Estate places upon its own employees. Staff turnover is extremely low, and many of the company’s employees, at all levels of the business, have been in place for a decade or more, ensuring a clear sense of continuity and care.