One of the affordable, but high-density, suburbs in the city and oldest Indian settlements in the country, the neighbourhood reflects the vibrancy of heritage from which it is developed
Situated 20km north-west of the traditional Durban CBD and a close neighbour to Umhlanga and Mount Edgecombe, the suburb of Phoenix was officially established as a township in 1976.
However, it was one of the oldest Indian settlements in South Africa with indentured labourers working in the surrounding sugar cane fields and building their homes in the area decades.
Today, Indians residents still constitute 85% of Phoenix residents and the neighbourhood still reflects the vibrancy and colour of the heritage on which it was developed.
Churches, mosques and temples occupy equal prominence as a tribute to the religious diversity in a space where locals can draw comfort from the sameness of daily life – neighbours unchanged for years, the warmth of a long-standing community and the ease with which sugar can be borrowed from the aunty next door.
Phoenix is also associated with the Phoenix Settlement built by Mahatma Gandhi in 1904. The small village-like settlement boasted residences, a clinic, school and a printing press and was an important home to Gandhi, his family and followers.
Commercial enterprises are equally found in informal structures such as the backs of bakkies or containers located on street corners, and in formal entities including standalone converted houses and the variety of shopping centres – Phoenix Plaza, Gem City, Starwood Mall and The Acropolis.
The shopping centres cater to various needs from top brands to local products. In the international Mercer’s 19th Quality of Life survey released in November 2017, Durban was ranked the best city in South Africa with the highest quality of life for a third consecutive year.
Statistics released at the time also placed Phoenix among the city’s 10 most affordable suburbs in which to reside. Private Property senior content manager Tahir Desai says the Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey assesses the quality of living conditions to help multinational companies and other employers fairly compensate employees when placing them on international assignments.
Re/Max Southern Africa chief executive and regional director, Adrian Goslett, says, divided into smaller areas, Phoenix has immense investment potential.
Some sections have their own shopping centres, such as the Phoenix Plaza and Starwood Mall, but collectively the sections provide residents with independent and national retailers and offer local business owners the space to develop their own brands.
There are various commercial properties for sale or rental in Phoenix. One building, located in Acropolis Street, that came to the market last October for R8.5 million, consists of nine fully tenanted retail shops and parking for 24 cars.
A second building in Longcroft comprises 10 retail or office spaces ranging from 40m² to 80m² over two levels and boasts an approved plan for a third level. The asking price on that property was R8.2m.
A third property in Starwood which came to the market this week for R3.9m includes 1 383m² of fully let offices as an ideal investment opportunity, while another Starwood commercial property offers investors 712m² in a freehold double-storey property where the opportunity exists to live and work in the same space.
That one carries an asking price of R2.999m. There is also is a 150m² space consisting of an open-plan area on the ground floor and two offices and a bathroom on the upper level. The rental is R80/m².
Businesses catering for wide range of requirements
Oasis Spice and Prayer Goods
Billed as an authentic Indian experience, Oasis Spice and Prayer Goods stocks almost everything customers demand from a small spice and prayer goods outlet. It also takes pride in being competitively priced despite its size.
Pioneers Academy of Learning
Established in 2005, Pioneers Academy of Learning is a private junior school and crèche with educational facilities catering to children aged three years up to Grade 3. The institution aims to cultivate a life-long love of learning through a differentiated, effective curriculum that prepares students for the demands of an ever-challenging society.
Phoenix Sun, Tabloid Newspapers and The Rising Sun
In addition to the national and provincial newspapers circulating in Phoenix, the neighbourhood has a strong sense of community reflected in its various community publications.
Local franchise group Chicken Xpress attracts a broad customer base from students to daily commuters, families and business people seeking a well-priced, convenient chicken-based meal. Stores are located in high volume emerging market trading areas.
Emam Bux Meats
Established in 1896 by Emam Bux, this Halaal butchery group remains a family-owned concern with branches around the city. The business is managed by the fifth generation of the Bux family and still holds its community in high regard.
Advantages of the colourful area
Phoenix has a long history as an Indian community with generations having lived in the neighbourhood over time. Both the size of the market and the sense of supporting local business provide sound, reasons for investing in and developing commerce in the suburb.
Access to major arterial roads
The Phoenix Highway is the main road servicing the area, but there are sound infrastructure links to Umhlanga and the national freeway systems.
Opportunities for development
There is land for development either using vacant space or as redevelopment of existing infrastructure. Residential houses are being converted into commercial premises, many of which are located on busy streets to attract passing trade or near places of worship.
Phoenix, Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu (Pink) development zone
The four suburbs Phoenix, Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu have been identified as key nodes for redevelopment and economic investment. The broader area is home to one of the largest concentrations of low-income households in South Africa. The upshot is that government investment brings with it private sector opportunities.