Cen­tury City now a prop­erty leader in the 21st cen­tury

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PROPERTY - PHIL OAKES

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.”

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