Saturday, September 22

Flat living with hotel luxuries

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Developers work to meet demand for apartments with five-star service

The blending of hotel and residential accommodation is a trend sweeping through Cape Town as developers try to meet growing demand for residential property near the CBD while capitalising on the city’s status as a leading international destination.

More owners are also wanting to live in modern apartments that come with the luxuries of serviced hotel living. Strategically located hotels, office buildings and shopping centres have been, and continue to be, redeveloped and transformed into luxury hotel and residential apartments.

Given the success of these conversions, the trend is growing. In the latest conversion, luxury units in Romney Park, one of the country’s foremost five-star all-suite hotels, will go on sale later this year as residential apartments.

Hotel and apartment combinations are “great hybrids” and express the mixed-use trend in real estate development, says David Cohen, managing director of Signatura, the developers behind The Onyx and Radisson Blu. 

Read: Cities worldwide tackle urban regeneration

Residents of the apartments have the added benefits of amenities not otherwise included in normal apartment blocks. More importantly, they are also usually better managed as they have full staff complements providing services and administration to hotel guests, and this also supports the apartment component. 

“A normal managing agent cannot compete with the service level offering of a hotel management company as they do not have the manpower to deal with the day-to-day issues of a normal apartment body corporate. 

“The Radisson Blu Hotel and Residence is doing exceptionally well. Owners and tenants are enjoying the services, and the hotel is provided with a base line of clients for their services, even in off-peak months when occupancy levels are lower.”

Hotel-apartment developments are also a focus for Signatura in Century City as the developers believe the individual who chooses to live in the city should not have to sacrifice the offerings in similar buildings on the Atlantic seaboard. 

“Individuals who purchased units at The Onyx don’t realise how world-class the building is going to be,” Cohen says. In Romney Park, refurbishment will modernise the interior and turn the luxury serviced accommodation into sectional title apartments, says Heino Reuling, director of Romney Park Luxury Apartments.

The decision followed the retirement of the majority German shareholder, and was based on the past successful use of the large square meterage of the units and guests’ enjoyment of the suites’ spaciousness. 

The potential for the existing layout of units to be made bigger and converted to luxury apartments with minimal development effort was also a factor, he says. Romney Park was originally built as a sectional title building and converted into a hotel. 

“After 21 years, the circle is now complete with the hotel being converted back into apartments. “Off-shore guests and regular hotel guests have always hinted at this, with comments like “if you ever sell as units, let me know’,” Reuling says.

Picture: Signatura

In Cape Town, as in large cosmopolitan cities like New York, London and Paris, this trend of hotel-apartment development is fast taking root as more buyers see the value in a home that comes with all the luxuries associated with a hotel stay, says Rob Stefanutto, group managing director at Dogon Group Properties.

“The hotel residence trend essentially allows owners the opportunity to live in a hotel permanently and enjoy the same facilities as temporary hotel guests, from room service to fine dining, a concierge service, gym, pool and spa.

“We do believe the trend will continue to grow. “This way of living is particularly attractive to people down-sizing and looking for lock-up-and-go options, and it is perfect for those who live a fast-paced lifestyle. Plus it fits in with the general global trend of living in smaller sized properties situated in city centres.”

Stefanutto says hotel residences are an attractive investment for business people who travel frequently and want to enjoy the comfort of a permanent apartment that is maintained and serviced. When not in residence, the unit brings in rental returns for the owner.

More thought is going into design of small apartments, shared spaces

As apartments grow smaller and the concept of shared spaces evolves into more than just a common braai area, Signatura’s David Cohen predicts the thought that goes into these spaces in terms of design and functionality will increase quite a bit.

“These spaces also provide a public way to give the developments an individual flair. I know we thought quite a bit and had many in-depth design meetings with our architects to get the amenities floor at The Onyx looking good.

“We made a real effort not to skimp on materials and are using items such as large form natural marble slabs for flooring and granite tile cladding pieces that you might only find in a luxury house. 

“We not only have the prerequisite pool and gym, we have made the pool an indoor-outdoor pool with a jack-knife glass door which will allow for swimming during the winter months and on windy days.

“We also have a lounge area which flows out to a sun deck which will be serviced by an onsite coffee and cocktail bar as well as a full spa with manipedi, treatment rooms and other surprises.”

Generally speaking, he says conversion of hotels into residences is challenging and costly as it is difficult to adapt the hotel room layout to an apartment. However, what does have potential is the conversion into micro-units, which is a developing trend in the marketplace with owners and tenants willing to sacrifice private space for good location and more shared spaces and amenities.

Dogon’s Rob Stefanutto agrees there is a trend towards smaller units that offer owners high quality at an affordable price that fulfils the need for accommodation. “With many homeowners choosing to live further from the city, they are choosing to have a small place in the city and vice versa.

People are buying small units close to the city so they don’t have to commute from suburbs that are far away.” He says there is also a significant trend toward people buying into developments, as it offers new properties that are up-to-date and have the modern convenience of technology built in.

Cape Town’s converts

Available conversions: 
* Bantry Bay’s Ambassador Hotel into the Aurum – luxury residential apartments priced from R25 million to R130m.
* The Safmarine Building into Radisson Blu Hotel and Residence.
* Nedbank’s head office into The Onyx – stylish residential and hotel apartments.

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