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Smart cities the way of the future

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More mixed-use offerings are gearing housing towards the tech-savvy millennial generation

The development of mixed-use buildings as an urban living trend is gaining popularity across South Africa, driven by affordability and the demand from millennials searching for location over homeownership.

Dogon Group Properties chief exectuive Denise Dogon says a significant number of mixed-use developments launching on to the market are introducing apartments geared towards the millennial generation.

Homeownership in the suburbs, once typified as the quintessential property dream, holds less attraction for people who prioritise living in vibrant areas close to work and leisure amenities and want to ditch their cars for walking, bicycles, taxi-hailing services and public transport.

Mixed-use developments blend commercial office space with retail and residential living, creating a single location built for convenience. Dogon says older professionals also want to escape the daily commute and downscaling couples seeking convenience and safety are moving into mixed-use developments. 

“Traditionally, there was a negative attitude to sharing residential space with commercial areas but this has changed,” she says. Coming into this environment, particularly when dealing with the millennial generation, is the smart city issue. Deloitte Consulting Africa smart real estate leader Marco Macagnano says as the digital economy grows, data becomes a valuable asset and a catalyst for growth.

Consequently, municipalities are creating smart cities – ones where technologies dovetail the requirements of governments, businesses and citizens to ensure the built environment has the capacity to accommodate a tech-driven future. He says the smart city concept is open to speculation, but the prevailing approach is to boost digital connectivity, and an element of greenfields projects has been the focus in providing digital infrastructure.

While he was specifically referring to commercial space, Macagnano’s comment that there is a trend developing responding to the expectations of “the gig economy” has equal relevance to mixed-use properties.

Cresa managing director Guy Voller says smart cities are more than merely precincts that effectively manage their technological resources, but spaces that create better environments in which to live and work in densely populated urban areas.

“This goes beyond technology and leads to a more responsible approach to the environment, allows for social interactions between different communities and classes, and affords liberty and anonymity to its citizens,” he says.

Dogon managing director Rob Stefanutto says mixed-use developments create investment opportunities with the option for attractive rental returns as most are situated in central urban space commanding a high demand from potential tenants.

“Globally, mixed-use developments are being built to use space effectively in the context of a rapidly growing population. Their high-density nature means they can reduce urban sprawl through effective use of space, making them attractive propositions for cities like Cape Town which face rapid population growth.”

He says living in the Cape Town CBD is “particularly attractive” as the neighbourhood provides for residents’ requirements. He echoes comments about the demand for smart city technology when reflecting on new CBD mixed-use developments, specifically the need for installed voice-over internet protocol and high-speed fibre connectivity.

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