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KZN: Invest in Howick

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The pleasant climate is a draw for older people whose needs are catered for, but there are many other opportunities for investment

Founded in the 1840s and named after Lord Howick, Britain’s then secretary of state for the colonies, Howick is today the centre of KwaZulu-Natal’s retirement community.

Its warm summers and cool winters, sometimes punctuated by cold snaps when snow falls on the nearby Drakensberg Mountains, has endeared the town to older people living in the long-established Ambers – including Amberfield, Amberglen and Amber Valley – or in the newer developments that have sprung up in the past 20 years.

Howick’s major tourist attraction is the Howick Falls, where the Umgeni River tumbles 95m over dolerite cliffs en route to the Indian Ocean. Howick and the nearby Karkloof is possibly the location of the world’s first manned flight. 

The beautiful Howick Falls is a landmark tourist attraction for the town. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Photographic evidence exists of John Goodman Household flying a selfbuilt glider in 1871 and again in 1875 on the outskirts of the town, but the distance flown and the height achieved differs depending on the source.

A memorial at Curry’s Post honours Household’s achievement. Howick also has a link to Nelson Mandela. Madiba was awarded the Freedom of Howick in December 1996, 34 years after his arrest on the road between Howick and Lidgetton West, and the monument at his capture site is now a major tourist attraction.

Howick is part of the Midlands Meander, South Africa’s inaugural arts and craftsbased tourism route dreamt up by several potters, a weaver and a number of artists on a summer evening in 1985. The route now has 150 members and has become another element for Howick’s commercial opportunities through accommodation and shopping experiences.

Various commercial enterprises and opportunities pervade Howick. They range from large-scale building developments like retirement complexes, shopping centres and medical centres to smaller businesses including restaurants, art galleries and bed and breakfast establishments, as well as less formal structures around the taxi ranks.

Among the latest property developments are St John’s Village and Protea Gardens attracting the older market, while Eagle Ridge Estate offers accommodation for families in two- and three-bedroom properties. Considering property acquisitions, there is currently an industrial property offered via online auction in nearby Merrivale (3km from the Howick central business district).

The building is now a customer services centre for one of the parastatals and occupies land measuring more than 6 750m². A commercial space located within a medical centre and measuring 98m² is on the market for R1.2 million, while an established car wash business in the CBD has been reduced to R3.2m.

Entrepreneurs offer visitors to the Howick Falls souvenirs from informal trading outlets. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

The business occupies just 600m² of the 2050m² level site. Not least of the opportunities within the Midlands town is the chance to acquire the iconic Howick Agricultural Hall, a listed heritage building. Measuring 960m², the building is on the market for R7.5m and is suited to a range of business options given its prime position close to the Howick Falls and the CBD.

The site measures 2 800m², providing substantial parking space for large-scale events. Rents within the town range from around R63/m² for an 800m² modern commercial building on Main Street to R92/m² for a 94m² office in a renovated historical property.

Midlands town is perfectly suited to retirement lifestyle

The Howick Falls Hotel is now a mixed-use development and includes commercial and retail space. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Construction

The significant expansion of Howick, particularly accommodating the retirement lifestyle market, has provided substantial opportunities for small and medium-sized construction companies. Larger projects like shopping complexes have also won contracts for the national construction groups.

Medical services

The dominance of older residents has paved the way for the proliferation of medical service businesses. These include the Howick Day Clinic, Mediclinic Howick and specialists in a variety of ailments and afflictions common among older patients.

Restaurants, cafes and casual eateries

There are vast opportunities for establishing casual eateries, cafes and restaurants to cater for the town’s population. Businesses offering pensioner lunches or discounts are commonplace.

There are plenty of cafe-style restaurants and casual eateries in Howick. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Midlands Meander

Forming part of the popular Midlands Meander, South Africa’s inaugural arts and crafts-based tourism route, Howick is an ideal location for establishing business opportunities incorporating interests relative to this market. The town currently has a variety of arts and crafts businesses, vintage and antique operations and shops specialising in offering customers a different experience.

Nurseries and florist ventures

Landscaping is big business and there are opportunities for developing nurseries and florists within the town.

Advantages of doing business here

Smaller entrepreneurial businesses are the backbone of Howick. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Availability of land

There are large tracts in and around the town available for development, offering investors the opportunity to bring new products to the market in line with demand.

Older buildings available for redevelopment

Already a feature of Howick, several older buildings are ripe for redevelopment and repurposing. There is a trend to convert older houses into business premises while at the same time retaining the charm of the Natal colonial Victorian architecture.

Tourism route

The proximity of Howick to the Midlands Meander provides investors with market opportunities beyond local residents. Day-trippers and short-stay venturers into the Midlands Meander can typically pass through Howick to wander through its local shops, relish a leisurely lunch and take in famous Howick Falls. 

Opportunities to supply goods and services into the broader farming community surrounding Howick.

It can be easily overlooked that Howick is more than just the town. There are vast commercial farming ventures on its doorstep, meaning investors looking for new commercial opportunities can take in a broader market scope when calculating their returns on investment potential here.

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