Property developers return to inner Johannesburg

Posted On Friday, 12 October 2012 09:39 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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The Johannesburg central business district (CBD) is proving to be an animal with different parts — the good, the bad and the ugly — and savvy property developers are only now starting to figure this out and returning to the inner city.

Maria RamosAfter decades of being shunned by developers, Johannesburg’s CBD is starting to see a wave of a new property developments and certain parts are starting to formulate their different identities.

As perceptions go, Johannesburg is seen as chaotic while Cape Town is well run and organised.

But that is not the full picture of the Johannesburg CBD, with its blocks that are vastly different from each other.

While most blue-chip companies left the CBD during the 1990s, some of South Africa’s giants remained and continue to reinvest in the properties.

Absa Bank has its headquarters next to Carlton Centre and First National Bank has its head office in Sauer Street. Standard Bank is in Simmonds Street. These banks have also helped to improve the CBD environment.

Mining giants Anglo American and BHP Billiton, the South African Chamber of Mines and Wits Gold have improved their properties and Main Street, where they are situated.

One property developer who has never left the CBD is Gerald Olitzki, who continues to invest in property there.

Mr Olitzki, an attorney who became a city property investor and rejuvenator, says that for the past 10 years his main preoccupation has been promoting the CBD and making sure investors see the opportunities it holds.

Mr Olitzki says he gave up a 30-year career in law 10 years ago and started doing what makes him happy — the regeneration of the inner city.

"This is what I have dedicated my life to," he says.

His company, Olitzki Property, is on the ninth floor of Ikusasa House in Fox Street. It buys old, derelict properties in the Johannesburg CBD and redevelops then into modern offices.

"We turn these buildings into A-grade office space, to the same standard you find in Sandton, Rosebank and elsewhere."

In some instances, the redeveloped properties also offer retail space.

Mr Olitzki says the aim is to try to get people out of the office and onto the streets by creating fully pedestrianised walkways.

On a walk down Fox Street Mall, Mr Olitzki points to efforts to revive the streets of the CBD. He has taken what were the worst streets and buildings in the city and made them better.

This has turned the area that no one wanted to do business in into a visually appealing hotspot.

Mr Olitzki also pioneered the revamp of the city’s main bus terminal, Gandhi Square.

Now other developers are also starting to see opportunities in the CBD.

Property investment and development company Atterbury has broken ground on a new R1.3bn mixed-use retail and business development in the Johannesburg CBD.

The development called Newtown Junction will comprise a 40,000m² shopping centre, offices of about an equal size, a hotel, a gym and four levels of basement parking providing 2,400 bays.

Atterbury MD James Ehlers says the development will be integrated with the heritage and artistic attractions of Johannesburg’s historic Newtown precinct.

The development embodied an "holistic vision — connecting the past, present and future of this built environment with care and flair".

Rupert Finnemore, the Pam Golding Properties joint area manager for the Hyde Park office in Gauteng, says with the high cost of fuel and transportation many people prefer to live close to their place of work.

"In some areas of the city centre, the upper levels of office blocks have been converted into (residential) accommodation. This has allowed office space that has been lying vacant to be occupied."

Mr Finnemore says many residents of the apartments in the Johannesburg CBD live and work in the same buildings. They live on the upper floors of the buildings while working in offices below or at shops and businesses at street level.

"Marshalltown, with its large concentration of banks and the headquarters of Anglo American, is a popular, fairly upmarket residential area with many executives purchasing or renting apartments there in order to be situated close to work," Mr Finnemore says.

Last modified on Wednesday, 14 May 2014 14:13

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