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Hilton: Town becoming a growth point

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From earliest times this village straddled the routes from the coast into the interior, but today it is growing steadily

Nestling in the hills above Pietermaritzburg, the picturesque village of Hilton owes its name to Jane Henderson, wife of farming pioneer and financier Joseph Henderson.

Legend has it she was nostalgically thinking of her native Staffordshire when, in 1860, they named their farm Hilton. The property adjoined Philip Zietman’s Voortrekker farm Groenekloof and was used as an access road for the early wagon routes.

The Zulu name for Hilton is Nyazake meaning His Feet and is derived from the Zulu war trails connecting the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg region with the Kranskop.

Regarded as the gateway to the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, it is from Hilton that travellers from the coast can first glimpse the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Mountains, and the town lies close to the natural beauty exhibited at Worlds View, Howick Falls and Karkloof. Today it falls under the uMngeni Municipality.

Property auction house In2Assets agent Rob Pickering says Hilton is one of South Africa’s growth points and offers entrepreneurs significant investment opportunities. Land can be acquired, held for five to 10 years until demand outstrips supply and developed into upmarket housing estates or commercial units.

He acknowledges the Eskom electricity supply is a problem facing Hilton, but believes it will be resolved.

Among the commercial investments is the Quarry Centre, bought in 2011 as a going concern. The new owners redesigned the shopping centre that overlooks the old Hilton quarry with its tranquil view of water birds and rugged rock formations.

Another landmark is the Protea Hilton Hotel that started as the Hilton Hotel in 1906. Now part of the Marriott hotel group, the four-star architectural showpiece offers accommodation on the doorstep of the Midlands Meander.

The Life Healthcare Group can take credit for one of the newer investments in opening the Life Hilton Private Hospital in 2015. The 106-bed multi-disciplinary hospital brought five operating theatres and more than 40 associated resident specialists to the region.

Under construction, Hilton Business Park will be a mixed-use commercial property development. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

During the opening ceremony, Life Healthcare Group chief executive André Meyer said the investment was core to the group’s quality and sustainability objectives. The facility focused on much-needed services like oncology and nephrology and enabled local patients to access advanced treatment without travelling long distances.

Under construction is Hilton Business Park, a 6000m² mixed-use commercial property development. Profile Property director Garth Ware says the multi-million-rand development is using one of the last remaining sites in the area zoned for light industrial. The 31 units range between 155m² and 535m² and will offer buyers workshop units with overhead office space. The initiative is geared towards warehousing and light industrial or cottage-type industrial and commercial ventures, but can accommodate offices, retail outlets or eating establishments.

Ware believes the development offers entrepreneurs the opportunity either to acquire their own business space or buy units to let to other businesses.

However, not every Hilton resident is happy with commercial growth, believing the developments will destroy the village atmosphere. In a newspaper article last year, Hilton resident Margaret Lake said in her 30 years in the town, she had experienced few power outages. But now the electricity infrastructure could not keep up with the developments and there was the threat of increasing traffic.

Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business chief executive Melanie Veness says development is “a balancing act” between people’s divergent needs and wants. It affects people positively or negatively and necessitates change.

“If you have decent work and a comfortable home, you are likely to resist change because it is uncomfortable, but when one considers the unemployment rate, one must acknowledge it is not equally comfortable for everyone,” she says.

Hilton Ratepayers Association chairman Trystan Banger is on record as acknowledging the area’s infrastructure maintenance and expansion has not kept pace with local development. The association has established a task team to identify short, medium and long-term goals and formal and informal communications with the authorities and service providers.

There are various opportunities for buying or renting commercial space in Hilton. A 101m² commercial unit in the Hilton Quarry Centre is on the market for R1.25million, while a 94m² unit in the same shopping complex is on the market for R990000.

A 10-bedroom house that offers six fully furnished B&B units has a R3.695m asking price, while a B&B opportunity in Worlds View is asking R8m. And a vacant 10000m² site in Hilton central is available for R2.3m.

On July 25, In2Assets will bring to the market a 2.26ha site in Worlds View that Pickering says can be acquired to build a private home; developed as a housing estate with the right permission; or retained for future investment in line with the anticipated development of Hilton.

Within the rental market, properties range from R75 to R140 a square metre.

Iconic hotel is right on the doorstep of Midlands Meander

The Protea Hilton Hotel has been a landmark in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands town for generations. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Rhino Cash & Carry

Rhino Cash & Carry falls within the Massmart group’s retail division. The holding company is a South African-based globally competitive management group invested in a portfolio of differentiated, complementary, focused wholesale and retail formats and is the second-largest distributor of consumer goods in Africa.

Protea Hilton Hotel

Originally established in 1906 as the Hilton Hotel, this four-star architectural showpiece offers 97 charming rooms right on the doorstep of the Midlands Meander. Providing clients with the modern amenities, the hotel offers fine dining, a cocktail lounge and cascading pools.

One of the smaller strip mall shopping centres available to entrepreneurs and new investors. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Pallet Wrap Systems

As a leading supplier of heavy duty industrial stretch-wrapping machines, Pallet Wrap Systems protects customers’ palletised products. The company offers a comprehensive range of end-of-line stretch wrapping machinery and places special emphasis on the advance film pre-stretch system.

Master Maths

Franchise group Master Maths offers school-going children a progressive method for learning mathematics. The method integrates personal contact from tutors with interactive computer lessons authored by competent mathematics teachers interpreting the South African curriculum and converting it into a user-friendly and easy to understand format.

Advantages of being in picturesque area

Cool Winds Pre-primary school caters for the educational needs of the town’s younger residents. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Lifestyle

The small town lifestyle affords its residents the peace and tranquillity that comes with a country environment.

Land for development

Still considered a village in the old-fashioned sense of the word, Hilton has land for development as the modern world encroaches on its space and urbanisation takes hold. This provides opportunities for investors and developers to bring their commercial skills and capital to the town.

The Life Hilton Private Hospital is a reflection of the private sector investment in Hilton. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Established community

As an established community long backed by the prestigious private boarding schools in the region, businesses have the benefit of being able to trade off each other. Community members will support local initiatives as cottage-style industries dominate the landscape amid the national retailers.

Accessibility

Situated on the N3 national freeway between the coast and Gauteng, Hilton is about 15 minutes from the Pietermaritzburg central business district and an hour from Durban and its port. This means businesses can manufacture in Hilton as developers establish new minifactory facilities and have access to national and international markets without difficulty.

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