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MIXED-USE DEVELOPMENTS: Convenience is the new king

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More South African buyers are drawn to mixed-use developments where they can live, work and play in one area

Mixed-use precincts and developments are mushrooming throughout the country as people increasingly look to live, work, and play in the same place – or at least in places close enough to walk between home, the office and shopping and entertainment.

Even those who cannot afford to live in popular mixed-use precincts such as Cape Town’s Century City or Joburg’s Melrose Arch are after the same benefits, so they focus their property searches on places that offer convenience.

Time is valuable, petrol is expensive, and the desire to get to the places you want to go as quickly and effortlessly as possible is not reserved only for those with higher incomes. Mixed-use convenience is one of the “most important” factors for South African buyers generally, says Just Property agent Lindsay Carsens.

“They like to take in to account how far the property is from schools and local malls, for example. This definitely affects their choices regarding properties. 

“Congestion is a major issue people want to avoid, and mixed-use suburbs help with this as people can live closer to where they work with businesses now moving out of the city centres and closer to the suburbs.” In addition to cutting down on time in traffic and money spent on fuel, working close to homes also means avoiding the search for parking in congested areas, says Craig Mott, Cape Town regional sales manager for the Rawson Property Group.

“There are also many health benefits to living in mixed-use developments. You can simply walk to everything you need, whether it’s the gym, a restaurant or grocery store.”

The amenities most desired by buyers will, of course, depend on who the buyers are, he says. “Some may look for ease of access to restaurants and the hustle and bustle of the city night life. Others may want to be close to the gym, sports facilities and large open spaces.

“Young parents will place emphasis on quality schooling and good medical centres.” Young professionals in their late 20s to mid30s look for secure lock up-and-go apartments that have comfortable spaces with great internet connectivity, says Mott.

Their homes must also be suitable for studying and working there. Buyers, particularly young urban dwellers, also look for convenience such as small food stalls and delis, says Rob Stefanutto, director of developments at Dogon Group Properties. “They do not have time to go out shopping after work so they prefer to do it ‘in-house’.

“Apartments are most popular with such buyers because their sizes and prices are more appealing.” The city centre, he believes, offers the best mixed-use benefits for residents.

While prices for properties here average around R1.3 million, he says properties in mixed-use developments can be more competitively priced compared to nearby precincts as their retail component can supplement the income from such developments.

Modern mixed-use developments are constantly increasing in popularity, Carsens says, particularly with young professionals in their 30s and 40s. These buyers are looking for a more lockup-and-go lifestyle where they do not need to drive far to get what they want.

“They would tend not to have children and they are career driven. “The homes they are seeking are usually sectional title and smaller than homes you would find in the suburbs.”

More mixing it up in the Mother City

MEETING DEMAND Axis is Century City’s latest residential offering providing the precinct’s mixed-use benefits. Picture: Dave Southwood/DHK

Mixed-use development continues unabated in Cape Town.

Some of the most recent are:

Harbour Arch

This R15 billion precinct will see a second tower launched this year, says Nicholas Stopforth, managing director of Amdec Property Developments. “The key to a development such as Harbour Arch is that we take international best practice and bring it home to our South African context, creating mixed-use precincts that offer a lifestyle on a par with the best in the world.”

The Amdec Group portfolio includes Melrose Arch in Joburg and The Yacht Club in Cape Town. These projects, Stopforth says, ensure investors are able to access the same kind of quality and value as international developments like Hudson Yards in New York City.

Harbour Arch will span 5.8ha, with 2 500 residential units above an eighth floor public podium with convenience retail, offices and two hotels.


Century City’s latest completed development is an iconic high-rise residential block designed to capitalise on views of Table Mountain, Robben Island and the Atlantic Ocean.

The modern apartment block consists of 13 floors comprising 85 luxury residential apartments and penthouses, supplemented by small-scale commercial space at ground level.

The Rubik

This development consists of premium residential apartments above luxury offices and high-end retail space. The majority of inquirers and buyers is local investors between the ages of 35 and 50, says Dogon’s Rob Stefanutto.

“Many of them are looking for lucrative property investments that will return a good yield. This building will revolutionise the design of luxury mixed-use developments in South Africa and will set a benchmark for future developments.”

The Woodstock Quarter

Developed by Swish Property Group, The Woodstock Quarter is in the redevelopment zone of Sir Lowry Road in Woodstock, 2km from the CBD and within cycling distance of most major Cape Town nodes. The property offers studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments and includes a fitness centre, a rooftop bar with views of the Cape Town CBD and Table Mountain, three swimming pools, a lounge and a communal deck.

The group’s Craig Getz says units with parking bays and storage units are popular. The ground floor and mezzanine will consist of retail space. 

Waterfront has cheaper neighbours

BUSY About 60 000 people live and work in Century City. Picture: Rabie Property Group

In Cape Town, the Foreshore and Roggebaai precincts have seen an increase in mixed-use development, says Rawson’s Craig Mott. These areas are more affordable per square metre than the V&A Waterfront, for example, but still offer many advantages to the consumer, such as ease of transport.

“Century City is a mixed-use development that includes residential, retail, entertainment and office components with more than 60 000 people living and working in the area. It is now seen as its own city within the city.”

Woodstock, the Foreshore, Brackenfell, Parklands and Century City are “growing like crazy” as mixed-use suburbs, says Just Property’s Lindsay Carsens. 

Cape Town has some “very expensive” areas offering mixed-use convenience which means the average house price is not a true reflection of what is actually happening in the city.

In Century City, the average prices are:

  • 2-bedroom R1.77 million
  • 3-bedroom R2.45m
  • 4-bedroom R4.78m

Comparing the Mother City’s prices with those of other regions, Carsens says Durban is similar to Cape Town, with some very expensive areas as well as some reasonably priced properties.

In Umhlanga the average prices for properties offering mixed-use benefits are:

  • 2-bedroom R2.79m
  • 3-bedroom R4.37m
  • 4-bedroom R6.51m.

Joburg’s average house price is a “little more true”, with Johannesburg South offering these average property prices:

  • 2-bedroom R590 000
  • 3-bedroom R1.46m
  • 4-bedroom R2.54m.

Mott says Umhlanga has seen “tremendous” mixed-use development growth. “The Umhlanga Village – with developments such as the sought-after Beacon Rock – is a prime example of what mixed-use living should be, with the Umhlanga promenade and beaches just a few minutes’ walk away.”

When looking at mixed-use developments in Joburg, obvious contenders are Sandton and Melrose Arch, but Mott says the Maboneng precinct on the east of Joburg’s city centre has done “extremely well”.

“The inner-city has established a revitalisation programme, and the City of Johannesburg expects to realise R20 billion in investment value through the release of city properties to the private sector for redevelopment. These will be mainly mixed-use with emphasis on affordable residential units, student accommodation and retail spaces.” 

Pros and cons of living in precincts

CHOICES Opting to live in a suburb or area close to amenities offers more space but also more traffic than mixed-use precincts. Picture: Maximillian Conacher

Mixed-use developments and suburbs offering these benefits come with their own pros and cons, says Just Property’s Lindsay Carsens. A suburb that offers the benefits of mixeduse living also offers more space and less traffic. Properties here are also slightly cheaper.

However, on the downside, there can be “clashes” between residents. Carsens says an example would be if someone wants to start a business in their home, but the rest of the street is not in favour of the idea.

Homes in mixed-use developments, or precincts, on the other hand, are quite compact and allow residents to live even closer to work than if they were living in a suburb. However, property here could be more expensive and the area could appear, and feel, to be more like a concrete city.

Furthermore, late night noise in developments with such venues can be a negative, says Dogon’s Rob Stefanutto.

Rawson’s Craig Mott says: “In terms of cons, residential and commercial owners and residents often clash as they hold opposing interests and goals. Noise or the smell of cooking from restaurants below may be a concern for residents living above. It may be said the concept and often the execution of mixed-use developments can also be anti-urban in that they provide a self-contained little world that people don’t have to leave.

Forget the car, catch the bus

EMBRACE IT Proximity to public transport is important. Picture: Illiya Vjestica

Modern trends point towards public transport use overtaking private vehicles in younger age groups, says Jacqui Savage, national rentals manager for the Rawson Property Group.

After all, between services such as the MyCiTi Bus Network and e-hailing apps like Uber and Taxify, many urbanites can get away without owning vehicles. 

But this makes proximity to transport hubs just as important as business and entertainment districts for urban renters – one of the many reasons Cape Town CBD and Century City are reportedly leading this market segment.

“The latest figures for Century City show 36% of buyers are under 35. According to our local Rawson rental franchises, tenant statistics are even higher in that age group.”

Cape Town CBD shows a similar leaning towards the youth market, with 30% of recent buyers under 35, Savage says. The majority (43%) of purchasers in this particular urban hub, however, is between 36 and 40.

“In terms of rental investments, it’s tough to beat these vibey CBDs. Demand is consistent, there are opportunities for both short and long-term lets, and the properties themselves tend to be wellmaintained, well-secured, and either newly built or recently renovated.”

Purchase prices, while higher than some other South African cities, are also less exorbitant than many would believe, she adds. “In Cape Town’s CBD there were more than 200 sales under the R3 million mark between December 2017 and November 2018. Century City totalled 155 sales in the same price bracket over the same period.” 


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