Century City now a property leader in the 21st century
IN 1997 it was just a 250 hectare patch of wasteland – another eyesore alongside the N1, but 20 years later it is home to one of Cape Town’s most prized pieces of real estate.
Welcome to Century City, a city within a city, which offers residents a live- work- play environment without having to get into a car. It is what is known in development lingo as “new urbanism”.
According to Century City’s website, the site had been owned by Ilco Homes, which had started developing entrylevel housing on a neighbouring site until it ran into financial difficulties.
That’s when developer Monex, headed up by Martin Wragge, stepped in. Wragge is credited with taking Century City into, well, the 21st century by realising it needed to be rezoned from “residential” to “mixed-use” developments.
He understood that the massive infrastructure required could not be sustained by housing alone.
Century City was in the zone. With the mixed-use zones in place, the first sods were turned in 1997, with the first residential development coming on stream in 2006.
More than half of Century City is occupied by kilometres of canals, Intaka Island Nature Reserve, as well as Central Park and commercial properties.
The remaining land holds about 4 000 residential properties and 500 businesses, with about 60 000 people living and working here (and a growing number doing both), and a further 21 million visitors a year to Canal Walk Shopping Centre.
It’s little wonder that in 2017, estate agents describe Century City as an “investor’s paradise” and “highly desirable”.
It wasn’t always seen as desirable though. In 1997, many people thought the plan was too ambitious. Indeed, by all accounts, the first few years were tough, but soon corporates started to realise that Century City had potential. It didn’t take too long before the big corporate guns, including PricewaterHouseCoopers, Vodacom, the Louis Group, SAPS, Unisys and Business Connexion, bought into the dream.
In 1998, Ratanga Junction was opened, followed two years later by Canal Walk Shopping Centre. Sceptics predicted the shopping centre wouldn’t work. They thought it was a white elephant that would trample all over investors’ nest eggs.
Actually, it was Ratanga Junction that turned out to be expensive to maintain and incurred heavy losses, eventually leading to the demise of Monex. The theme park now runs on a seasonal basis.
Canal Walk, though, has become one of the country’s most popular and successful shopping centres – and a major catalyst for development with offices and residential developments springing up nearby.
In 2004 the remaining undeveloped land and associated rights were acquired by the Rabie Property Group, with Century City’s development rights totalling more than 1.25 million square metres.
One of Century City’s greatest attractions for people living and working there is that it is safe, which is one of the reasons property prices have doubled in the past five years.
Pam Golding Properties’ research indicates that sectional title prices have increased steadily since the post-recession slump in 2010.
According to the research, sectional title schemes comprise two thirds of Century City’s property market. The research reveals that the median price of houses in the precinct has increased from R900 000 in 2006 to R3.3 million last year.
According to Pam Golding’s Bruce Campbell, the precinct offers a fresh start for buyers wanting to live in the heart of a “city within a city”.
“Accommodation available caters for the full buyer life cycle. There is something for young corporates, first- time buyers, families and retirees. The desirability of the Century City precinct, and its excellent investment returns, have ensured there is constant movement within this property market,” he says.
Helga Clemo, managing director for Seeff Century City who has worked in the suburb for 11 years, says there were two main reasons for the ever-climbing prices of Century City’s property: firstly because there is a shortage of available land – limiting the expansion of the suburb – and, secondly, it is the ideal location for residents.
“Besides the fact that Century City is centrally located without the overcrowding of the CBD, has direct access to the N1 highway and is just 15 minutes away from the city centre, Cape Town International Airport and multiple popular beach locations, there will come a point when no new development will be possible and this will lead to a decrease in stock, making property even more sought after.”
John Chapman, a director of Rabie Property Group, says there were a number of factors that made Century City attractive to buyers and tenants.
“It’s locality at the centre of the greater Cape Town metropole makes it easily accessible to all areas. It is not bedevilled by crime and grime. It is a well-managed private estate, with extremely high standards of maintenance, cleanliness and security.”