George becomes a residential haven

Posted On Wednesday, 25 January 2006 02:00 Published by
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GEORGE, the Garden Route town between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, is one of the fastest-growing municipalities in the country.

GEORGE, the Garden Route town between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, is one of the fastest-growing municipalities in the country.

The latest commercial property development, which is expected to act as an impetus for further development, is the new Garden Route Mall, owned by Pretoria-based property fund Attfund.

Analysts say George is a logical choice for growth because of its location. Other smaller towns are expected be targeted next by retailers as well.

The mall, which was launched last October, and will ultimately be worth about R780m, currently has about 42000m² of space and 125 shops.

Its second phase will increase the available space to about 54000m².

Garden Route Mall GM Hennie Janse van Rensburg says the space includes all major national retailers, and that its performance so far in terms of trading had exceeded all expectations.

About 866000 people passed through the mall last month.

George is one of the fastest-growing nodes in SA. "There is a lot of residential development which is going to grow our market," Janse van Rensburg says.

Tim Kirby of Sotheby’s International Realty says infrastructure is constantly improving along the Garden Route, and developments are "sprouting at every turn".

"We have a constant flow of new buyers looking for property in the area and this has been stimulated by improvements to the N2 road linking Cape Town and the Garden Route," says Kirby.

He says George airport has added to the area’s accessibility, and affordable flights from Cape Town and Gauteng are spurring the influx.

"In my opinion, the trend of people relocating to the Garden Route from the metropolitan areas of Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban is in its infancy.

"The region is fast being transformed from a holiday destination into a sought-after residential area," he says.

Property economist Erwin Rode says that over the past 20 years George has been the "success story among the South African towns".

Rode says George’s location halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, and the airport have made up-market residential estates in surrounding areas including Knysna and Plettenberg Bay attractive. People are now able to fly from Johannesburg for vacations and weekends.

"The inherent natural scenic beauty in the area is an added attraction," says Rode.

Referring to retail property, property economist Francois Viruly says he believes many of the retail opportunities now appearing in smaller centres will not be available in the traditional metropolitan areas such as Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban.

Viruly says secondary centres such as Polokwane, Port Shepstone and George are beginning to benefit from the country’s retail boom.

"I don’t believe that George is necessarily an exception in the game at the moment. Obviously the Garden Route is seeing its popularity as a tourist destination being realised at the moment."

He says provincial capitals such as Polokwane and Nelspruit will see growth in local economies as a spin-off of from government expenditure and growth in the economy and this will also encourage retail developments.

"When people say SA is overshopped it is important to differentiate the type of shopping as well as the location of the shopping.

"Opportunities in the larger metropolitans are probably more limited at the moment as there is a scarcity of land."

Publisher: Business Day
Source: Business Day

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