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Reservoir Hills: Home in the rolling hills

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The area reflects its Indian heritage, with Hindu temples and vernacular restaurants

Named after the reservoir located in the heart of the community as well as after the rolling acres of hills in which its early residents settled, Reservoir Hills has its history indelibly entrenched in the history of Indian settlement in Durban.

When the Group Areas Act was introduced in 1950, a significant portion of the city’s Indian population found themselves in neighbourhoods the government now deemed for “whites only”, and notices began appearing in newspapers advertising exclusively Indian-zoned suburbs like Umhlatuzana, Red Hill, Silverglen and later Chatsworth.

Reservoir Hills was another area of this kind, with the neighbourhood securing the reputation as one of the most well-developed Indian areas during that era, and it came to be considered “an elite town”.

Today Reservoir Hills reflects that history with a mix of Hindu architecture, modern homes and poorer neighbourhoods as newer residents have moved in.

Places of worship embrace Hare Krishna, Hindu temples, Christian churches, mosques and the Divine Life Society of South Africa.

Commercial enterprises are dominated by older strip mall developments that would benefit from new investments and redevelopment initiatives.

Opened in 2008, the popular Reservoir Hills Mall community shopping centre accommodates a mix of national retailers and smaller community specialist outlets like Maharaja’s Prayer Shop, Spice Emporium and AA Bollywood DVD.

Currently under construction is the expansion of the Dravida Society of South Africa Cultural Centre, while the now abandoned Jeevankara Tennis Club property potentially offers investors and developers land on which to inject economic activity into Reservoir Hills.

The benefit is the close proximity to the Papwa Sewgolum Golf Course, honouring the professional golfer who became the first non-white golfer to win a provincial open tournament in South Africa.

The downside is that the property is also located immediately next to an informal settlement.

MaxProp broker Paulo da Silva says Reservoir Hills has various positives for investment potential, including its close proximity to the Durban central business district as well as Intersite Avenue and Springfield Park.

Residential and business rates are lower than in the more affluent areas like Umhlanga Rocks, despite the relative closeness, meaning owners are securing good value for their property investments in the neighbourhood.

The proximity to the University of KwaZulu-Natal Westville campus is also a drawcard for new entrants to the market, particularly students at that higher education institution seeking accommodation within easy reach.

Reservoir Hills offers potential investors various options to acquire either existing businesses as a new initiative, to purchase vacant land for development or to rent commercial and industrial space for launching a new business or expanding an existing one.

The Dravida Society of South Africa Cultural Centre, established in 1966, is being extended.
Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Currently on the market is a commercial property with the potential to house six or seven large shops and/or storerooms. It will suit retail offices, entertainment businesses or restaurants. On the market for R2.5million, the property, measuring 966m² also houses a granny flat and four larger residential flats on the upper level that can secure R20000 in monthly rents.

Another commercial option that came to the market earlier this year was a 238m² three-unit block of flats for R1.95m. Each unit comes fitted with built-in cupboards and tiled floors, and the monthly rental potential on the property exceeds R18000.

Within the rental space is an old school that has been rezoned for development into student accommodation. The land covers 11000m², of which 4000m² is sports fields, and there is a tarred parking area big enough to accommodate 30 vehicles.

Listed last month, the owner is keen to meet interested parties to discuss pricing and rental arrangements as the school’s location means it is ideal for university students attending UKZN Westville campus.

Last week an office unit measuring 90m² came to the rental market for R94.45/m² for a 36-month lease.

The unit is colourful, but could be repainted in more conservative livery, and it boasts sound street front exposure.

Another opportunity is a 116m² commercial office space for R107.75/m² that will suit a surgery or beauty spa and can be divided into two separate spaces.

A 36m² commercial space has a monthly rental of R125/m² and is located in a secure complex.

Integrated area has easy access to highways and local labour

Mountbatten Drive has a variety of strip malls tenanted by smaller businesses. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Accessibility – N2/M19

The neighbourhood has easy access to the N2 national highway and the M19 freeway that ends in Pinetown. The main residential road provides a link to Westville North and the area has close links with the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus as that institution was previously the university designated for Indian students, and was known as the University of Durban-Westville.

Mixed-use and integrated society

As a self-contained neighbourhood, Reservoir Hills offers its residents the opportunity to operate businesses while living nearby – literally either above the small business outlet in a mixed-use building or within several kilometres to eliminate costly and stressful commuting.

Labour

The sad reality of South Africa is the abundance of labour and high unemployment figures. Reservoir Hills is home to numerous informal settlements providing unskilled and semi-skilled labour.

Pockets of land available for development

As an older neighbourhood, there are various development and redevelopment options available across Reservoir Hills. Poorly maintained properties can be redeveloped for new commercial and industrial spaces, while various pockets of abandoned or vacant land provide opportunities for investors to create new economic initiatives.

Businesses operating in Reservoir Hills

A busy commercial centre located on Mountbatten Drive. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Marshalls World of Sport 

The national sports betting agency Marshalls World of Sport offers patrons the opportunity to gamble on virtually any event they can imagine, from buying their Lotto and Powerball tickets to local, national and international sports matches.

Southern Star Trailers

The local business Southern Star Trailers has built its name and reputation on developing custombuilt trailers for its clients, as well as for providing after-sales services including sales and spares, trailer modifications and welding and painting.

Sai Hiring and Catering

Established in 2009, Sai Hiring and Catering is a complete service catering company providing services for weddings, corporate functions and private entertainment events. A Level Three broad-based black economic empowerment company, the company recognises its clients’ needs for a memorable yet seamless, stress-free function.

Kay Misra’s Prayer Goods and Sweetmeat Centre

A cornerstone of the Reservoir Hills community, Kay Misra’s Prayer Goods and Sweetmeat Centre provides a cross-section of services to the local community. While small in stature, the outlet brings to the market prayer goods, sweetmeats, grains, spices, murthis (an image, statue or idol of a deity or person in Indian culture), silverware, brassware, copperware, garlands, pots and soya products.

Star Inn Lodge

One of several hotels held by the same ownership that includes the Star Lodge in Pinetown, All Star Lodge in Sea Cow Lake and Empire Lodge in Umbilo, the Star Inn Lodge aims to provide a safe and secure environment for its occupants. The long-term view involves creating more establishments under the Star image to boost accessibility.

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