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Pietermaritzburg: Historic with modern bustle

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The provincial capital might have begun life as a Victorian town, but today it is a busy commercial city with opportunities

The provincial capital, Pietermaritzburg, is the second largest city in KwaZuluNatal and home to the iconic red brick buildings – including the City Hall and the provincial parliament building – that symbolised Victorian-era Natal. 

The city was founded in 1838 and its main commercial street, Chief Albert Luthuli Street (formerly Commercial Road), recalls that history with many of its old buildings a testament to another era. 

Built in 1900 and declared a national monument in 1969, the City Hall was the largest red-brick building in the southern hemisphere at the time. It still houses the largest pipe organ built by the Sheffield-based organ building company, Brindley & Foster. 

The Botanic Society of Natal created the Botanic Gardens in 1872, and the lush greenery and flower beds still provide an isle of tranquillity amid the bustle of the commercial centre. 

Chief Albert Luthuli Street stretches 2.25km from the Msunduzi River on the east side of the town to the Royal Show Grounds on the west. Along its route are Grey’s Hospital and the cemetery surrounding it; the City Hall and its marker honouring the inaugural Comrades Marathon held in 1921; the Botanic Gardens; the provincial legislature building; and the Tatham Art Gallery. 

Businesses in Pietermaritzburg include national retailers, fast-food outlets, global petroleum brands, colleges and smaller one-person operations serving the many pedestrians and commuters in the area. 

Pietermaritzburg: CBD offers good roads, nearby labour and public transport

Typical of traditional city centres, the centre of town also has residential flats above many of the main street businesses as well as civil services like churches, local and provincial government services and the courts. 

Some redbrick houses have been converted into commercial premises. The Kamdar Group recently advertised space within a retail shopping centre available for rent. 

The irregularly shaped site has two road frontages – Burger Street and Chief Albert Luthuli Street – and covers 4 438m², while the level aspect of the stand also houses two commercial buildings. One of the buildings was a house now converted into office space. 

The other is a strip mall shopping centre with 13 line shops and an ATM, built in an L-shape to maximise the land use. The Profile Property Commercial and Industrial Group currently has an upstairs commercial space on its books that will suit a small training college, dental practice or attorneys seeking offices in the city centre. 

Rental on the 125m² space is R84/ m² excluding VAT and carries a 36-month contract. Both Re/Max Midlands and Maritzburg Property Consultants have red brick Victorian-style properties on their books for sale. On the market for R2.5 million, the Re/Max property is a 295m² Victorian building in good condition that boasts Oregon pine floors and has five offices with airconditioning units and fireplaces. 

Pietermaritzburg: Businesses include fast-food outlets

There are also two outbuildings, one comprising 45m² that can be used for storage or converted into a flatlet. The second functions as domestic quarters. Located in the Pietermaritzburg central business district, the Maritzburg Property Consultants property is on the market for R7.9m and promises the buyer an ideal investment opportunity. 

The premises consists of a main building of 840m², a second building of 761m² as well as staff quarters, staff offices, a garage and storeroom, a building manager’s cottage, covered carports and 48 demarcated parking bays in a tarred car park. 

Re/Max Midlands also has a potentially great three-storey apartment block with retail space on its books that speaks of opportunities for upgrading and investment while retaining the original architecture and design. The 933m² building requires a complete refurbishment – on top of the R1.5m asking price – but has the option for the ground floor to be converted to retail space with the first and second storeys retaining their residential character.

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