(Bloomberg) -- When developer Harry Handelsman first stepped off the tube in Stratford—the home of London’s 2012 Olympics—he was surprised at the speedy 20-minute journey from his office in central London. This was in 2009, and the area was “a bit of a tumbleweed zone: distressed, and depopulated,” according to the Sunday Times.

Handelsman saw potential and decided to invest in the neighborhood by developing the Manhattan Loft Gardens skyscraper, just a stone’s throw from Stratford International train station and its high-speed rail connections. He tapped Burj Khalifa architect SOM for the project.

“I like to be in the framework at the start of things, when you can still feel a little grit,” Handelsman says. The 74-year-old developer gained renown in the early 1990s, when he turned a derelict building in Clerkenwell into New York-style loft apartments. At the time, Clerkenwell wasn’t known for being a desirable residential area; it has since become a vibrant neighborhood with buzzy bars, restaurants and pricey homes.

Later, Handelsman worked on converting the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel and partnered with Andre Balazs to create Chiltern Firehouse, a  luxury hotel and restaurant favored by celebrities. 

His dual-use Manhattan Loft Gardens tower opened in 2019 as the 145-room Stratford Hotel, with 248 residential apartments. Handelsman moved into the penthouse on the 40th floor.  

Five years later, he’s listed it for £17.5 million ($22 million) with Becky Fatemi, executive director of UK Sotheby’s International Realty. A buyer would get a total of 4,615 square feet of space on two floors, including three bedrooms, four bathrooms and floor-to-ceiling windows with sweeping vistas of London’s skyline.

The asking price makes this the most expensive listing in Stratford, according to Fatemi. Stratford, traditionally viewed as a more affordable neighborhood, is located six miles northeast of central London, and development has been rife in recent years. The average price for a flat is £416,484, or £738 per square foot, according to Rightmove data.

The Olympics in 2012 kickstarted demand. Westfield Group built Europe’s then-largest urban mall in time for Danny Boyle’s opening ceremonies. The stadium that hosted them is now home to the West Ham football club. Organizations such as the Victoria & Albert Museum East and University of the Arts London have since set up shop in Stratford. What was once part of London’s poorest borough has become trendy, but it lies outside prime central London, where prices per square foot average £1,428, according to analysis from Coutts & Co.

Fatemi says it’s unfair to compare the listing’s high price, at £3,792 per square foot, with others in Stratford.

“If you want a big space with views, you’re pretty stuck on the amount of options you have in London,” she says. “You move that flat 15 minutes into town, you need £10 million more in some buildings. I think we’re not going to know what its value is until we get the offers coming in—so let’s litmus-test it, you know, see where it goes.”

Fatemi says the buyer is likely to be someone accustomed to high-rise living—perhaps Asian or Middle Eastern—who wants plenty of open space to entertain. 

Handelsman says he’s used the house for big parties at which the chef from Allegra, the hotel’s restaurant, has cooked. He has enjoyed showing his guests spectacular views including such London landmarks as St. Paul’s and the financial district skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and the City of London.

“It is the best view in London for me,” he says. “It gives you a real sense of ownership about the city.” Through those windows, he’s watched Britain’s capital evolve. 

The penthouse is a partial duplex. The entrance features a winding iron staircase that leads up to the open-plan primary living space. US-based architect Alex Gorlin undertook the interior design. 

“I wanted it to be minimalist, to really feature and reflect the outside,” Handelsman says—an esthetic that can be seen throughout the apartment.

“We have these columns throughout, and I didn’t know what to do with them,” says Handelsman. “The architect suggested mirrors, so the space becomes about reflection, and I think it’s quite beautiful.” 

The kitchen has marble countertops and backsplash, a restaurant-style gas oven, and a separate wine fridge. A discrete butler’s kitchen connected to the main kitchen holds additional ovens and sinks and has an entrance for household staff. Handelsman says he’ll be happy to sell such furniture as the 12-seat dining table near the kitchen as part of a deal.

Past the kitchen and living area stands the primary bedroom suite, flooded with natural light and containing built-in bookshelves and a large wardrobe area. The bathroom has a double-headed steam shower, a marble bathtub and sinks that overlooking London. The vistas rival those at London’s tallest building, the Shard, which stands in view. 

A pair of additional bedrooms, each with generous wardrobe space, fill out the top floor, along with three other bathrooms. Although there is no private outdoor area, buyers can access gardens at other levels of the tower, in addition to such amenities as concierge service, a cleaning service and a communal gym with Technogym equipment. While the building lacks a pool, Handelsman notes that the now-public Zaha Hadid-designed London Aquatics Center (used in the Olympics) is just a five-minute walk. 

Handelsman says he feels it’s time to move on. He compares Stratford’s transition to when he developed Southbank Bankside Lofts in the ‘90s—where he also settled into the penthouse. “After a while, the whole area became gentrified, and I decided to sell out and move to Hyde Park,” he says. His primary residence is presently in Bayswater. 

“I loved living here, but I’m the kind of person to leave when the pioneering stage is over,” he says. “The Range Rovers are now coming in, instead of the bicycles.”

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