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Yuppies take to living in residential city space

Posted On Tuesday, 28 October 2008 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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The mixed-use development of vacant office space in CBDs in SA has gained popularity as accommodation among yuppies.


Bill WardBill Ward CEO of property and facilities management, Colliers International, says the trend has not attracted SA’s traditional suburbanites.

“The trend to reside in the inner city, with components of residential, leisure, retail and office intermixed, is more successful in Cape Town, largely because the city never really lost its appeal and was revitalised at an early stage by the Victoria & Albert Waterfront development.”

He says in Johannesburg this “Manhattanisation” type of development is still in its early stage but ultimately will follow the Cape Town trend. This will happen firstly as a result of successes in clearing the city of crime and grime through city improvement districts (CIDs) and because of good access to the city.

CIDs have been a success, albeit still only in pockets, changing the entire atmosphere of areas by including public art, pedestrianised streets and open spaces — something the city lacked even in its heyday.

It has attracted back some welcome and vibrant street life.

However, the ultimate goal of returning the CBDs to what they once were, vibrant commercial centres, has not been achieved. Until the day comes when these pockets join together the full benefit of CIDs will not be seen, says Ward.

“As long as the perception of griminess continues people will not want to move to the city.”

He says in the case of Johannesburg the considerable development in the inner city has been biased towards government and quasigovernment accommodation. The provincial government precinct is a major success, but it is all government-driven.

Ward says that these pockets of development, if done on a sufficiently large scale, do have a spillover effect on neighbouring areas, which see the benefit to business of an improved environment and set about improving their own look and feel.

The banks and mining companies are the major exceptions to the wholesale exodus from the CBD during the ’80s and ’90s, but even in the case of the banks almost all their new development has been outside the CBD.

There has been no move by businesses to increase their representation in the city, he says.

“There has been a major move to site office accommodation near to where employees work, and this has been a process of gradual migration northwards,” says Ward.

There are still many question marks over the impact of the Gautrain on the Johannesburg CBD, , but it should improve accessibility and also parking, he says.

“If it functions according to plan it will take pressure off the roads. It all depends on how effective the support services are in getting people to work on time and at what price, as well as how secure people feel walking around,” says Ward.

A Standard Bank executive who commutes from Pretoria by train describes the support services for that commuter service as excellent. Many people already commute between the two cities, and the bus service from the station is efficient, he says.

A problem in converting vacant office space to residential accommodation is that many of the buildings are old, built at a time Johannesburg boasted trams and buses, when there was not the demand for cars and parking that exists today, he says.

These buildings do not offer parking, and are therefore impractical as residential accommodation. Some have been knocked down and converted to parking lots.

Ward says that in the long term certain trends favour CBDs. There is a noticeable trend for South Africans to abandon the traditional middle-class, large-garden suburban home with its immense upkeep. In keeping with the fast pace of modern lifestyle and instant communication the lock-up-and-go lifestyle will appear increasingly attractive.

That lifestyle is catered for in the suburbs, but also in the CBD, says Ward.

Last modified on Thursday, 13 March 2014 14:20

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