Commanding impressive views over the Valley of a Thousand Hills, the former Rob Roy Hotel is now a popular retirement lifestyle centre. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography
This is the mid-way point on the Old Main Road that still connects Durban and Pietermaritzburg
The original road between Durban and Pietermaritzburg traversed smaller settlements and villages that were slowly developing between the province’s two main cities.
Today the national N3 provides a swift, relatively straight and direct route between the cities, but the older road provides a view into a simpler time.
Old Main Road links Cowies Hill, Pinetown, Kloof, Hillcrest, Bothas Hill and Drummond, and is a narrow, twisting route that demanded dexterity and patience to navigate.
It took significantly longer to travel than the hour it now takes to reach either the provincial capital or the commercial hub.
The outcome was the development of smaller trading stores, hotels and casual eateries that are still prominent today. Open space also allowed for peri-urban and small-scale farming and agricultural initiatives that are now being rezoned and redeveloped in line with urban creep and westward development.
The road is also the traditional route followed for the annual Comrades Marathon, with Drummond the halfway point along the 90km ultra-marathon route founded by Vic Clapham in 1921 in memory of South African soldiers who died in World War I.
That means businesses and homes along the route have a front row experience of a race now recognised among the world’s greatest ultra-marathons.
However, modernity also generates changes and Old Main Road between Bothas Hill and Drummond has not been excused. One of the first properties to change its function was the iconic Rob Roy Hotel, shifting from a traditional hotel offering overnight accommodation and long Sunday lunches to a retirement lifestyle village. Developers Roy Alderdice and Julian Beare say the Scottish-styled hotel retains its grandeur with the distinctive main tower and baronial hall.
However, the original building has been refurbished and extended and new wings built to accommodate the changed demands. Currently, further land for development is being advertised on the corner of Old Main Road Bothas Hill and Rob Roy Road.
The signage indicates the land will be transformed into retail shopping space and offices for sale or rent with shop space starting from 1 000m² and the potential for investors to build according to tenants’ demands.
Across the road, Seeff Commercial Property has the original Dunrobin Nursery site on its books for R6 million. Agent Dave Jones says the 4 3816m² site is valuable because it has a range of permitted uses including educational establishment, institutional (hospital or home for the aged), fuelling and service station, retail shopping facilities including motor showroom, hotel, medical offices, commercial workshop and multi-unit residential development for around 35 units.
The 900m² minimum property size also means sub-division is an interesting prospect and the current 50% coverage implies a 2 500m² footprint, while the three-storey height restriction increases building flexibility.
The property currently accommodates multiple existing structures including a 400m² shop, an office block and two workshops.
“The land has easy access, proximity to Kearsney College and the renowned Valley of 1000 Hills, and freeway access is only 5km away. The centre of Hillcrest, along with the vast residential and commercial expansion that has happened in that neighbourhood, is only 4km away.”
Re/Max Address recently brought a 1 500m² retail space to the market for R3.2m. Situated between Kearsney College and the Total garage, the site has the potential for revamping and can be converted into a lodge, hotel, restaurant or convenience store. Verve Properties Hillcrest has a fully let commercial property for sale along Old Main Road Bothas Hill for R3.25m.
Agent Barry Howell says the building has an immediate 13.4% rate of return with the property including 1 100m² under roof. The 2 458m² site is zoned for tourism and the area is already noted for its rapid growth in crafts, coffee shops and restaurants. The leases have a 7% rental escalation and Howell believes the property presents sound long-term prospects for investors.