Rapidly emerging as a vibrant growth node, Braamfontein in Johannesburg’s inner city is experiencing a surge in demand for property, reports David Reid, investment broker for JHI Properties.
“This area is undergoing a significant turnaround and the escalating demand for property is not as much from an institutional or corporate tenant aspect but is more in regard to realising the potential for the entire development profile of the area, which is transforming into a highly appealing, eclectic mix,” says Reid.
Currently JHI has a number of investors who perceive the potential of this area and are looking at acquiring property with a view to the refurbishment and upgrading of buildings.
“This trend towards revitalisation comes on the back of demand and supply of student accommodation, with old buildings being converted and redeveloped, and is driven by an almost insatiable demand for such accommodation from students attending Wits University and Johannesburg University, as well as a host of other educational institutions in the area. These include Lyceum College, Damelin College, Boston City Campus & Business College and John Orr Technical High School, among others,” says Reid.
“There are further opportunities presented by old civil service type buildings and railway buildings for the conversion into residential – specifically student accommodation. Wits University had the foresight to do this in order to provide accommodation for its students.
“And as a spinoff to this regeneration, we are seeing an influx or variety of other businesses and activities springing up in the area such as entertainment venues, coffee shops and the like. Coupled with this it is interesting to note the creative way in which the old utility lanes between the tall buildings are being transformed into vibrant outdoor areas.”
Reid says this has come about as astute developers with vision and a discerning eye for the overall aesthetics are taking note of consumer demand, and converting these lanes into vibrant user arcades. A wonderful outdoor city area is emerging, brimming with life and energy and with open spaces for entertainment and leisure activities with huge TV screens, tables and chairs where one can watch sport or socialise – even with chess tournaments taking place. There are also plans for the pedestrianisation of certain streets by developers together with the Johannesburg City Council. He says an ideal street for this purpose is Melle Street, which is typically not an arterial road or through route for commuter traffic to any particular destination.
Today this area presents a diverse of large corporate tenants, educational institutions, art galleries, retail and entertainment activities, which is interspersed with old buildings, some vacant and long been acquired for future redevelopment. Braamfontein is also home to prestigious headquarters of SAB and Liberty Life and combined with an entire street of civic institutions such as the Civic Centre, there are a large number of employees in the area as well as students.
Adds Reid: “It is not surprising that Braamfontein is now coming into its own – with its wide variety of leisure activities and street-side markets such as the Juta Street Market. It’s also close to Johannesburg Park Station and taxi ranks as well as the Gautrain station, affords good access to the M1, to buzzing Newtown via Nelson Mandela Bridge, while the Empire Road/M1 intersection is a key arterial intersection which provides easy access to Johannesburg’s northern suburbs.”
He says from a development perspective, it is apparent that those who are solely focused on just one building in isolation are not those this area will attract. “It is rather those who have a sense of an entire precinct, the treatment of street-side, vegetation and passing foot traffic, and those who can cater for a tenant mix at ground level which dovetails with this vibrant young market are those for whom this part of Braamfontein has high appeal. Here buildings need to work in conjunction with adjacent buildings and take into account the entire block - which could incorporate various mixed uses such as retail, coffee shops, restaurants and entertainment activities at street level, offices and student accommodation above.”
Reid says there hotel accommodation could also be provided, and where there are buildings with floors at the same levels there are opportunities to create exciting interlinked retail and leisure arcades, to lighten up and open up buildings with atriums which have direct access from the street. This kind of mixed use concept conforms to current trends and is ideal for Braamfontein’s ongoing redevelopment.
“In addition to the strong demand for student accommodation, there is scope for small shopping centres and supermarkets, big brand, hi-tech type retail, art galleries, street-side markets and professional offices for architects. Further to this, there are also office vacancies in Braamfontein with accommodation with very large floor plates, ideal for call centres,” he adds.