Trendy space for students
Michelle Funke looks at the Silo Precinct in Newtown, which is set to take on a new identity
RECENT property transactions saw Citiq purchase two sets of grain silos in Newtown. The silos, which have long been part of the Joburg skyline to the west of the M1 highway, were originally used to store grain and owned by the Premier Milling group. While they have been unused for decades, Citiq plans to transform these concrete pipes into trendy student apartments.
This follows the company’s identification of the student market as a strategic growth area. “The demand for quality student accommodation is enormous,” says Paul Lapham, CEO of Citiq. “We plan to become a meaningful provider of student accommoda- tion by focusing on compact, convenient and secure accommodation that gives students a real taste of varsity life.”
Citiq has a proven track record in property investment and management and manages a property portfolio in excess of 120 buildings and R1.2bn across Gauteng. More recently the group has become known for its innovative construction projects experimenting with more cost-effective building methods. It was responsible for building the first residential apartment block in the country that was made almost entirely from recycled shipping containers. This project has helped to redefine SA’s perceptions of affordable accommodation and the use of alternative building techniques, with the shipping container units being fully rented out in two days.
“The silo project may seem like a departure from what we did with shipping containers, but in reality it is driven by the same priorities: to make available quality accommodation in the city at affordable prices,” says Lapham.
The silos enable Citiq to do this while catering for the demand that exists for student accommodation around the University of Johannesburg and the Wits campuses.
“Students in general find themselves at the cutting edge of style and design and are not afraid to try something new. The circular shape of the grain silos enables us to create an appealing environment that is different to the dormitory style accommodation available at most residences.”
Construction on the first of the two silos started at the beginning of the year with the project scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, in time for the student intake next year.
Says Arthur Blake, MD of Citiq’s Development Division: “These 10 large concrete 6m diameter pipes go up 10 floors, and will be converted into trendy circular apartments. The walls are already there, and all that is required are floors and ceilings, and spaces cut for doors and windows. The silos were built in the 1960s and were intended to store 35m of grain in each pipe. The structure is extremely sound, with 18cm thick walls, making them more than adequate to bear the weight of the units. One of the pipes will be used as staircase with a lift shaft and a fire escape. Another will be used to create 10 floors for study areas, libraries, lounges, computer rooms and recreational facilities. Two more silos will house the bathrooms and kitchens for each floor.
“The accommodation will not only be functional and attractive, but will also be cost-effective because of the reuse of the existing structure. On each floor there will be 12 apartments, with a mix of single bed and double sharing bedrooms, as well as communal kitchens and bathrooms. In total 320 students will be housed. An extra two storeys, made from shipping containers, will be added to the top of the building with single bedrooms and recreational areas where students can get together to socialise and enjoy the panoramic views of the city. The use of shipping containers builds on what we learned with our shipping container apartment block, and will complement the industrial look and feel of the exterior design while making available more space for recreational activities.”
Construction on the second set of silos, also in Newtown, is to start during the course of next year and should be completed within 12 months. Negotiations are under way to purchase a number of buildings in the precinct.
The new shopping mall and office development between the Market Theatre and Carr Street, within walking distance, will be an added attraction. “We see these developments adding value to the demand for residential accommodation in the area,” says Blake.
An architect’s rendition of the smaller silo in Newtown, Johannesburg after being converted into student accommodation.