Finest in city living back in town

Posted On Wednesday, 28 January 2004 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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Developers are hoping to turn Johannesburg's inner centre into something that resembles Manhattan

Alfonso BothaVisionary developers hope to turn Johannesburg's inner city into a Manhattan with plush apartment blocks aimed at attracting wealthy professionals and foreigners to the city centre.

However, while some agree that such a concept will work in Cape Town's city centre because of infratstructure such as schools, clinics, hospitals and restaurants , there are concerns among commentators when it comes to talk of turning Johannesburg's inner city into a London, Berlin or New York.

One concern is the problem of image. Despite closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras having been installed in numerous sites, there is still the perception that Johannesburg's city centre is downmarket and has a crime problem.

The latest development launched in the central business district (CBD) is The Franklin, by developers Urban Ocean.

Situated opposite the old Johannesburg Stock Exchange building in Diagonal Street and overlooking Newtown, it is being touted as the American dream having arrived in Johannesburg.

Investors can buy a limited release of unrefurbished apartments from R299000 and do the Stefan Antoni-designed conversion themselves, or purchase a fully equipped apartment from R490000. On the top floor, penthouses are available from R990000 to R1,9m.

There are about 60 luxury apartments and penthouses available.

The developers promise 24-hour security, a central reception area, as well as exclusive office and conference facilities, undercover parking, a gymnasium and wellness centre, an indoor swimming pool and spa, and exclusive street cafes and restaurants nearby.

Alfonso Botha, who co-owns Urban Ocean with Duan Coetzee, says close to 70% of the units have already been reserved.

"The concept of The Franklin was borne out of the fact that the biggest airport in Africa is in Johannesburg. Tourists coming in from America and Europe are not really interested in shopping.

"If you are a tourist you want to see the culture of the country you are visiting. That's what Newtown is all about. You have restaurants such as Moyo, the craft market, the Bus Factory and Museum Africa."

Botha says they want to target the tourist market because there is nowhere to stay overnight in Johannesburg's city centre.

Most of the investors who have bought at The Franklin plan to live in their apartments. He says these are mainly wealthy, young people and older people with few financial commitments.

Botha says crime in the central business district is a perception problem and not a reality. He says the CCTV cameras installed in the inner city are having a tremendous effect on crime.

Urban Ocean is the developer behind Corner House, a similar concept to The Franklin. At the historic Corner House building, they are converting old office space into residential space.

"We also have mixed-use space in terms of restaurant, office, and retail space on the ground floor."

Construction at Corner House is due to start shortly, while The Franklin is about two to three months away from construction.

Urban Ocean has also had great success with the old Penmor Towers, which has been renamed Number One Rissik Street. "We marketed it at the end of last year. Thirty-six penthouses were for sale and they were sold out in three days."

Property economist Francois Viruly maintains that if a residential component is to be created in the centre of Johannesburg, there has to be infrastructure as well.

Viruly says New York does not consist only of residential and commercial units, but has a whole social structure, which includes parks, primary schools, universities, police stations and clinics.

But he believes there is a chance the Johannesburg inner city will attract single young professionals.

"The question is whether those environments will be attractive to families. We just have to be careful not to dump people in the CBDs without those amenities. It's one thing to be safe during the day in Johannesburg , it's another to be safe when it empties out at 5pm."

Viruly says its success depends on creating a "24-hour vibrancy".

"Another factor for these support structures to be put in place is critical mass. You have to have enough people living there to justify it."

Cape Town-based property economist Erwin Rode says what is happening in Johannesburg's centre is exactly what it needs, but evidently the risk is much higher than Cape Town because Johannesburg's biggest problem is its poor image.



Last modified on Saturday, 17 May 2014 17:49

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