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Commercial property in KZN: Richmond

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The town is the centre of a farming area and many local businesses provide services of various kinds for the agricultural community

Infamously known as being the battleground of political violence between members of the ANC and IFP during the turbulent 1980s and early 1990s, Richmond today is a town caught in a time warp.

Set on the banks of the upper Illovo River in KwaZulu-Natal, about 40km southwest of Pietermaritzburg, Richmond’s key economic activity is farming – timber, sugar cane, poultry, citrus and dairy. The British Byrne settlers, originally from New Forest/Beaulieu in Hampshire, established Richmond in 1850 as Beaulieuon-Illovo, but swiftly renamed it Richmond to avoid confusion with the surrounding lands called Beaulieu.

The settlers were colloquially called “the Duke’s people”, and the hire of wagons to their allotments and survey fees were charged to him as the settlers had lost their possessions when their ship sank in Durban harbour. The Duke also met the costs for flour, tents and seed and donated £100 (at the time) towards the construction of a new church.

The Richmond Shopping Centre currently has commercial space to let. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Today Zulu is the main language, spoken by 49% of the population, followed by English at 38%. The town is the urban centre and economic hub for a region with most people living in rural areas characterised by low levels of basic services and significant unemployment.

According to the Richmond Municipality Final Integrated Development Plan 2015/2016 report, land use is typically urban with high levels of limited infrastructural and service development and an adequate provision of social facilities.

Soap and Bubbles owner Delia Jeffs says her family farmed in the area when she was a child, and returning to Richmond to establish her business has not been a mistake. She points to the economic revival slowly happening in the town, and loves the “peaceful, quiet environment and lifestyle”.

New commercial space enters the market. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Most commercial properties for sale or to rent are on farming and agricultural land. Recently an array of farms have been offered for sale with prices ranging from R1.95 million for a 1.7ha off-grid smallholding to R2.5m for a 6ha farm and R4.2m for 12.5ha. In February the old Thornville Hotel came on to the market for R3.5m. It has 17 rooms that can be individually let.

Requiring renovation, the buildings include a bottle store, bar, pool area and large hall suitable for hire. It could be be converted into a rehabilitation centre, home for the elderly or training centre. Located on the Richmond main street, a 240m² business came to the market with a R1.4m price tag.

Some of the original commercial spaces still operate as trading establishments, with a handful of them renovated to 21st century standards. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

The commercial property adjoins a residential house and has easy street access and foot traffic visibility. Investors seeking vacant land will be interested in the 1 126m² plot that came up for sale in the Richmond central business district for R280 000 that is ideally suited to establish a commercial venture.

Last year the popular Oaks Hotel of Byrne came up for auction. The owners had operated the business for 40 years with the traditional hotel offering accommodation for 87 guests in 42 rooms. It has been a wedding venue for couples from across the province. Currently the hotel’s website reflects the business still operates as a hotel ,with the owners having teamed up with the international specialist retirement group Clifton Goldridge.

Plans include transforming a portion of The Oaks into a retirement lifestyle farm and resort country haven. Resident retirees will be offered the opportunity to work and share in the profits of newly formed business entities which include trout fishing, vegetable farming and snail farming. 

Pharmacy, cleaning chemicals and computer repairs on tap

Village Hardware

The local hardware store caters to the demands of the town’s farming and residential requirements.

Bhamjee’s Pharmacy

Taking care of the town’s pharmaceutical needs, Bhamjee’s Pharmacy values the close relationship that develops between the pharmacist and the customer. Part of the Alpha Pharm Group, the outlet provides its patrons with professional advice, service and value with the focus on health and family wellbeing.

The Bhamjee’s Pharmacy outlet reflects the mix of old and new/formal and informal properties. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

The Coach House Pub

The cosy pub offers visitors and locals a meeting place for food, drinks, entertainment and companionship when winter temperatures drop, or summer promises long, warm evenings that demand ice-cold refreshment.

The Coach House Pub offers a welcome for weary travellers entering Richmond. The old courthouse, now in a sorry state of disrepair, can be seen in the background. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Soaps and Bubbles

Founded in 2009, Soap and Bubbles began life as a small shop offering patrons household cleaning chemicals at better prices than other retail stores. Today the enterprise encompasses the block with an eclectic mix of computer repairs, internet cafe, stationery, hardware and financial services.

Development opportunities

Redevelopment of older buildings

There are various buildings throughout the town that would benefit from redevelopment and renovations. A fair number of buildings reflect Natal Victorian architecture, consisting of red brick construction with broekie lace wrought-iron railings and wraparound verandas.

This building is an outstanding example of Natal Victorian architecture – a red-brick building with its broekie lace wrap-around veranda. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Investment in modern shopping and retail opportunities

There are several larger shopping and retail complexes in the town, but there are opportunities and land available for more commercial investment.

Franchising

Several of the national franchising brands have opened outlets in the town. This paves the way for investors to seek out other brands to introduce to the neighbourhood as commercial initiatives.

Green environment

As the world increasingly focuses attention on recycling and upscaling, towns such as Richmond, with a significant number of low-income communities, can benefit from initiatives based on the green environment. This may include recycling depots for glass, paper, plastic and tin and be expanded to second-hand furniture, clothing and other goods.

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