Trendy Killarney apartment living more popular than ever

Killarney, one of Johannesburg’s original apartment suburbs where development commenced from the early 1920s, offers residents a convenient and charming lifestyle steeped in a rich architectural history. Close on a century later, the area is attracting a varied range of younger professionals and business people. 

“The character of Killarney has changed greatly over the last 20 years or so,” points out Kayte Denham of Pam Golding Properties. “In the 1990s the area was still often viewed as a residential suburb for retirees. Today, however, while older ‘empty nesters’ looking to downscale are still sometimes attracted to the area, it is generally home to a more cosmopolitan and trendier community than it was in those days.”

“They have been drawn to the area not only by the fact that the suburb is situated a stone’s throw from the centres of Sandton and Rosebank, but also by the spacious and elegantly designed apartments — most of which were developed between the 1930s and 1970s in a variety of architectural styles — that are on offer in the area.

“Residents invariably report that they enjoy the colourful and highly convenient lifestyle on offer in Killarney, which contains approximately 2 500 households. Indeed, it is difficult to find apartments offering such outstanding value anywhere else within the greater Sandton area. This has helped to ensure the ongoing popularity of residential properties in Killarney, which have enjoyed solid price growth over the past five years,” observes Denham. 

“The fact that the majority of the apartment buildings in the Killarney/Rivera area were built prior to 1980 means that its apartment blocks are not only of rich architectural design, but the homes themselves tend to be substantially larger than their modern equivalents and have numerous appealing features. 

“The thicker walls of these homes, for instance, afford better insulation and therefore greater privacy, while the higher volumes evident in these homes create a sense of spaciousness and light, which is considered rare nowadays. Many of the apartments have finely crafted finishes including brass light fittings and wood, parquet or strip flooring. A number of residents have also reverted to more economical gas that was previously piped throughout the community.”

The development of Killarney dates back to the early 1900s, when a charismatic entrepreneur from New York, Isidore Schlesinger, bought a portion of what was then known as Cook’s Farm and established a golf course and motor car club, which helped to attract people to the area. Schlesinger also went on to develop one of the earliest film industries in South Africa from a studio he established in Killarney. This was later demolished to make way for the Killarney Mall. 

Schlesinger was also associated with the iconic Whitehall Court in Killarney in 1924, which he used both as his residence and as offices for his businesses. The building, which is today solely used as an upmarket apartment block, was designed by architect John Moffart in what may be termed a neoclassical style and is considered a landmark in Johannesburg building architecture. According to Denham, it formed part of Schlesinger’s vision to bring contemporary New York and international living style to Johannesburg.

Denham says that there are a range of possible apartment options available in Killarney and these tend to be much more affordable than in other centres such as Rosebank or Sandton. A one-bedroom apartment in Killarney can be acquired for around R1.3 million while a luxury penthouse may fetch up to R8.5 million or more. A well-designed home of a substantial 150sqm with three bedrooms and two reception rooms may be marketed for anywhere between R2.5 million and R4.5 million. 

“The Killarney area attracts a wonderful mix of cultures to the suburb today, including a large number of creative professionals such as architects, artists and designers as well as lawyers and bankers. Many have developed their homes so that they today represent a highly attractive combination of modern and older design, thereby blending the best features of both,” adds Denham. “In some of the grand historic buildings, wealthier investors have gradually bought up neighbouring properties in order to create super-sized apartments.”

A variety of residential apartment developments followed Schlesinger’s Whitehall Court. These were built mainly in an Art Deco style, which became increasingly popular in building design internationally from the 1920s, and was favoured in Killarney from the later 1930s through into the 1950s, says Denham. 

“The Gleneagles apartment building, by way of example, is a magnificent Art Deco design that was completed in 1937, but there are a number of other well-known examples including Daventry Court, Mentone Court and Killarney Court. Another apartment building, Rapallo was built after the Second World War by Italian prisoners of war and features two original Baldinelli artworks in the entrance hall. All have the blue and white Heritage Foundation plaque mounted on their walls.”

Denham says that today there is a wide range of heritage apartment buildings in Killarney that retain their charming character, and superb features and which have lost none of their popularity. 

Killarney is Denham’s passion and she has been heavily involved in the community for many years. She recently arranged for Pam Golding Properties to fund a gardening service for the local park. “Killarney is a wonderfully vibrant community today. Residents tend to love the area and the Pam Golding Properties team enjoys matching home seekers to a property we know they will thrive in.”

Denham also has her own vision for the future of the area: “With all of the beautiful entrance halls and gardens in the area, Killarney would be ideally placed to develop into more of a mixed-use space and a street café environment, with residents spending more time at street level and sharing common areas. It would take a greater focus on spaces that could serve a community role, and more creative investment from the residents in a enabling a cohesive and unique suburb. There are, in addition, numerous outstanding rooftop spaces which we foresee residents and body corporates greening and developing into gardens.”  

“Killarney is a charming, historic area and it is gratifying to see how a new generation of residents are appreciating this and how they are placing a greater emphasis on bringing out the best in the designs of many of these fine buildings. 

“Given the outstanding situation of Killarney and the ongoing popularity of the area, we believe that homes here represent a fine investment and that the local residential property market has a great future,” she concludes.

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