Spotlight on Mr & Mrs El-Habti, new residents of Portobello Square
As moves into Phase 1 of Portobello Square draw to a close, residents are settling into their new homes and beginning to get a feel for the new neighbourhood. Mr and Mrs El-Habti moved into their flat in Hardy Mansions towards the end of March, and already have it looking and feeling like home. They’re excited about their new home and the prospects for the neighbourhood.
Abdeslam El-Habti remembers the exact date he came to the UK from Morocco: 8 July, 1970. He’s lived in Ladbroke Grove ever since. It’s his close network of friends that keeps him here, he says. Since he retired from his job as a chef at St Charles Hospital, he can be seen most days in the many cafes around the neighbourhood, spending time with people he’s known for years. He likes the variety of coffee spots in the area, from Moroccan cafés to Portuguese patisseries.
‘I’m used to this place and I like it here,’ says Mr El-Habti. ‘It’s always been a good area, but I hope it will be even better when the regeneration’s finished. The new streets are quiet and clean, and they feel very safe. The planters of flowers around the neighbourhood are a lovely touch.’ His wife Badeaa is looking forward to being able to walk straight through Portobello Square using the new streets on her journey to work.
The El-Habtis are also happy with their new flat, which they say is warmer and brighter than their old one. Although they moved in a short time ago, the living room is already neat and inviting, with large sofas and vases of flowers to brighten it up. ‘We didn’t have a balcony before, so that’s really nice,’ says Mr El-Habti, ‘We’ve already enjoyed sitting out on it a few times. I like the new buildings too. It’s a relief to have a lift – with my heart problem, the stairs in our old place were getting quite tiring.’
‘The living room is a bit smaller than our old one,’ says Mrs El-Habti, ‘but the bedroom is much bigger, which I really like. The design of the new bathroom is lovely too.’ Hejrae, Mr El-Habti’s daughter, is happy to see the couple in a bright, cosy flat. ‘The old flat was quite dark, which was a bit depressing,’ she says, ‘The big windows here really make a difference.’
With help available from Catalyst every step of the way, the couple found the move surprisingly easy. ‘Catalyst gave us boxes for our things, organised the moving van – everything,’ says Mr El-Habti, ‘I just filled up the boxes, and they did the rest.’ ‘They’ve been super spoilt,’ says Hejrae, ‘Catalyst are even sending someone to put their pictures up!’
Phase 1 of the regeneration project is coming to a close, but that’s not the end of the changes the neighbourhood will see. When United Living make a start on building Bond Mansions this autumn, the El-Habtis and their neighbours will see more of Portobello Square come to life around them. With a focus on reinstating the original street pattern and knitting the neighbourhood firmly into the surrounding area, the regeneration project will only strengthen the community that’s kept the couple here for so many years.