Fit for a King

Ask any Londoner about the King's Cross area and you'll likely get an earful about drugs, prostitutes and run-down buildings. But that view is fast becoming outdated. More than $2 billion is being spent to regenerate the neighborhood, including a makeover of the vast St. Pancras station, new office complexes, swanky restaurants, hotels, boutiques and markets. The rebirth officially kicks off on Nov. 14, when the new Eurostar terminal opens at St. Pancras (, bringing Paris and Brussels 20 minutes closer by high-speed link.

The interior houses Europe's longest champagne bar, a daily farmers market and several shops, including Hamleys toy store.

Renaissance Marriott is taking over an abandoned hotel inside the terminal, planning to open a 245-room, five-star hotel in 2010; 67 loft-style flats, which have all been sold for between $500,000 and $12 million, are expected to be ready for occupancy in 2009 (

The area is also the new hot spot for cutting-edge fashion, food, art and design. Acorn House, London's first environmentally sustainable restaurant, uses ecosensitive take-out containers and purifies its water on-site (acornhouse Gallery owner Larry Gagosian opened up his second London space in an old car-storage facility ( King's Place, a new office complex, will feature a 420-seat concert hall, waterside restaurants and art galleries. It's hardly recognizable as the old King's Cross.