With a history stretching back to Earl Grey, the town is now home to many businesses and a growing community of retirees.
Howick is probably best known for its innovative artwork that commemorates the capture site, in August 1962, of former president Nelson Mandela.
Created by South African artist Marco Cainfanelli, the sculpture can only be fully appreciated when viewed from within the Mandela Monument museum and is constructed of steel beams between 6.5m and 9.5m in length.
It is a powerful honour to the man who changed the course of this country’s history.
Historically, Howick was named for the Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1850, Earl Grey (a man whose ancestor had already given his name to the famous tea), who had acquired the title Lord Howick, a name derived from his ancestral home, Howick Hall.
Howick’s commercial activity essentially anchors on two industries, namely agricultural ventures and property development focusing on retirement living, and for decades was home to the Stockowners Association.
The Amber group, comprising Amber Valley, Amber Glen, Amber Ridge and Amber Lakes, has been a long-standing feature of the town, offering its retired residents a wide range of facilities including frail care, assisted living units, communal dining rooms, an auditorium, pubs, libraries and sports facilities.
Two noteworthy business parks that have evolved to accommodate the growing town are Stockowners Business Park and Midlands Business Estate. The original Stockowners Business Park owner and developer, Gerald Mundell, acquired the property in 2005 at an insolvency auction when one of the key assets on the 48 hectare site was a 1 000m2 office space.
However, there emerged the opportunity to establish a business, commercial and industrial hub on the Midlands N3 corridor between the coast and Gauteng. Today the mixed-use development in Howick North offers investment opportunities from R118/m2 with sites ranging from 26 400m2 to 442 600m2.
The tree-lined avenue running down the centre of Midlands Office Estate, coupled with white pole fencing, retains its agricultural history while promising a modern commercial business park. The venture is already home to Fairfield Dairy, Romesco Olives and Sutherlands Home Furniture and has prominent visibility from the N3.
Harcourts Midlands owner Clive Lang says there is a strong demand for good quality agricultural land in KwaZulu-Natal – land that can be defined as having a high productive potential based on soils, rainfall and other climatic conditions.
This refers to arable land capable of producing crops under dryland conditions like sugar cane, maize, soya beans and potatoes, and irrigated land with water rights. While the threat of cheap imports and the extension of the time frame for land claim submissions was worrying, Lang says commercial farmers are “generally in for the long haul and carry on regardless”.
Across KZN, sugar cane dominates the coastal areas, while dairy, timber, cash cropping and extensive grazing are the key drivers for agricultural land in the Midlands, and grazing and cash crops are the order of the day for the northern regions.
“There are no major issues that will affect the agricultural market over the short-term. Farmer perceptions are generally positive in terms of rainfall over the next season (as South Africa comes out of an extended drought),” he says.
There are various properties for sale or to rent within the broader Howick region. On the market for R2.9 million, Re/Max Midlands has a self-catering or BnB guest house for sale. The homestead has an open-plan lounge, kitchen and dining room opening to an elevated balcony, large bedroom en suite and a study. Semi-detached are two two-sleeper units as well as a timber-frame garden cottage.
Realty 1 has brought to the market a 34ha development property on the banks of the Midmar Dam for R9.24m. The site is zoned for 70 sub-divisions or units and the infrastructure, including roads, has already been laid out. The existing homestead consists of five bedrooms, three bathrooms and an open-plan lounge and dining room.
Tyson Property Group brought a 98m² medical or office suite to the market for R1.2m. Situated in a medical centre, the property promises investors the opportunity to lease out, or for a buyer to operate a business.
Situated on Howick’s Main Road, Tweedie Junction owner has a 30m² shop in the development’s courtyard to rent for R134/m². Located at the start of the Midlands Meander route, Tweedie Junction houses Full of Beans Café, Dragonfire Beads, Inky’s Mosiac, and Functional Footwear.
Lang believes most commercial farm buyers are existing farmers acquiring land close to their existing operations to benefit from economies of scale.
The trend is towards expansion with fewer small-scale farming operations.
“Farming is management intensive and it is necessary for landowners to have business acumen and good knowledge of their industry.
“The land reform process has also had a multiplier effect on demand for farming land as land owners are bought out and then re-enter the market with a resultant increase in land values.”