Synonymous with interesting and vibrant open spaces dotted among a mix of historic, redeveloped and modern buildings which are home to businesses and residents alike, Cape Town’s central city never ceases to innovate, says Dr Andrew Golding, chief executive of the Pam Golding Property group.
“Ongoing redevelopment and transformation of Cape Town’s central city was spearheaded by the conversion from office to residential of certain iconic, landmark buildings, including Mutual Heights and Cartwrights Corner, to name just two,” says Golding. “Both these buildings sold out within weeks of the launch which demonstrated the enormous pent-up demand for central city living and sparked off a trend which at its height saw the launch of Mandela Rhodes Place in 2006.
Since then the heart of the city has become a thriving hub pulsing with life and activity, embraced by an increasing groundswell of new residents, investors, the business sector and visitors and tourists from around the globe.” An endorsement of the continued success and global appeal of Cape Town is the recent announcement that it has retained its position as the Number 1 destination for business events in Africa on the 2014 International Congress and Convention Association Country and City rankings.
Now, a new artistic landmark on the corner of Long and Dorp Streets is set to celebrate the Western Cape’s diversity. Envisaged as a symbol of democracy and called ‘Open House’ this is an open platform for artistic expression and freedom of speech - seen as a creative means of encouraging dialogue and interaction between people of all walks of life.
The winning concept in the Western Cape Government Public Art Competition, Open House was designed by Kimberly-born artist Jacques Coetzer, who drew inspiration from corrugated metal structures, RDP homes and the facades of Long Street’s buildings. With striking red corrugated iron frames, staircase and balconies, it will proudly stand 10.5m tall.
Opening in July (2015), the thought-provoking artwork will be on permanent display and in direct view in order to engage with traffic and passing pedestrians. And Open House will be exactly that – an open forum for poetry sessions, talks by international dignitaries, theatre productions and annual events. It will encourage dialogue, lively interaction and the trading of ideas.
Rob Kane, chairperson of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID) says: “When you want to attract people back into a CBD, one of the first things that needs to be done - after you’ve cleaned up the area and ensured that people are safe - is to provide public spaces in which people want to spend time outdoors.
We’re very proud of the fact that the Central City is doing this very successfully, not only through the beautiful public squares that we have with wonderful art installations, but through activations such as First Thursdays and the Saturday City Walk that happens on the third Saturday of every month. This increases people’s desirability to live and work in town, and speaks to the true ‘downtown’ lifestyle that you find in the major cities in the world that have a strong residential component.
“In terms of public art, and along with the numerous art installations that have existed in the Central City for a number of years, we are also seeing new ones being installed - such as the recent installation of the late Paul du Toit’s ‘Into Tomorrow’ piece on Riebeek Square. As the CCID, we also welcome the work of graffiti or street artists and encourage corporates to look at how they can also be part of this beautification of the CBD. I myself had a work by Faith47 commissioned for the foyer of a building I own in Church Street.”
Art brings people together, with so many amazing examples in this key hub, say Pam Golding Properties agents in the central city, Bridget Shiffer, Peter Spencer and Taryn Lewis. “The towering red ‘Olduvai’ by Gavin Younge at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, Egon Tania’s human-scale bronze sculptures in Pier Place and Ralph Borland’s sharks in the adjacent Jetty Square are but a few. In Thibault Square is the vinyl artwork of Julia Anastasopoulos and John Skotnes’ ‘Mythological Landscape’ sculpture, while St George’s Mall is renowned for Brett Murray’s famous, singular Bart Simpson work and the piece of the Berlin Wall.”
PGP says the central city area has become a residential destination of choice catering for a broad range of purchasers, with studios priced from R700 000 to R1.1 million, one bedroom apartments from just under R1 million to just over R2 million, and two bedroom units from an entry level of around R1.2 million up to R3 million and R4 million. While the most active market is in the price bracket from about R1 million to R2.5 million, luxury penthouses and other exceptional properties can fetch prices as high as R10 million.
Huge shortage of residential stock
“Anything and everything below R2.5 million is in high demand,” says Shiffer, “with new listings in the central city often selling within a week. There is an acute shortage of units available to purchase and stock levels have virtually dried up. This is due to a lack of new developments coming to market over the past five to seven years following the market slowdown in 2008, with further pressure on supply resulting from an influx of buyers from Johannesburg and Durban seeking lock-up-and-go apartments either as accommodation for their university-going children or for use later on.
Further contributing to the shortage of stock, some sellers are reluctant to sell their properties as they are enjoying sound capital growth and there is likewise a shortage of stock for them to buy if they elect to exit from their existing properties.”
Pam Golding Properties says the current demand for central city living is largely driven by young professionals, numerous retirees looking for a convenient lock-up-and-go in the vibey heart of Cape Town, as well as a large number of continental buyers who understand and love city living. “The market for accommodation in the area has also become more affluent as there has been a marked improvement in the urban environment, for example security and community initiatives. Prices which buyers are prepared to pay for apartments have certainly edged upwards in recent years,” says PGP agent Peter Spencer.
“Underscoring the investment credentials of the central city are some interesting statistics. In 2013 with total sales of R246 million in the city centre (across all agencies), the average selling price was R1.43 million. This increased to an average price of R1.77 million in 2014 against a backdrop of total market sales of R400 million, which has further rapidly increased to an average selling price of R1.967 million for the period to the end of May 2015, with total market sales of R151 million for this five-month period. It is emphasised that these sales have been limited by the shortage of stock, with the surge in pricing illustrating the growing desirability of the central city location.”
Concurs PGP agent Lewis: “There is an exponentially increasing attractiveness in Cape Town’s urban city environment which has been brought about by a range of improved initiatives. Over and above First Thursdays is the Bree Street area upgrade and ongoing, upmarket conversions to residential all of which draw a more affluent city dweller and create increased investor confidence.
Buyers who are attracted to the central city do not regard this as ‘second best’; instead, they are making a conscious choice of what this vibrant space has to offer, including newer buildings with modern lifts, communal spaces, lobbies and security as well as underground basement parking – not to mention the convenience of living in short walking distance of shopping, leisure and entertainment facilities in the surrounds, including the V&A Waterfront.
“And, when it comes to comparing old and new blocks, it is usually the amenities on offer which provide the critical differentiator, and not the age of the building. For example, a refurbished Art Deco block will tend to command a premium if it offers secure basement parking, concierge, beautifully appointed communal areas and large apartments with high ceilings, whereas a newer block which may lack some of these facilities or amenities, may perhaps result in a lesser return and ultimately lower price appreciation.”