The infrastructural development and improvements taking place around the Ellis Park Stadium sports precinct ahead of the 2010 Soccer World Cup are set to become a catalyst for rejuvenation in the adjacent suburb of Doornfontein, says Oscar Mello, leasing, sales and investment broker for Pam Golding Commercial in Gauteng.
"With the Ellis Park precinct – incorporating Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium and The Dome – undergoing a major facelift, attention is beginning to focus on nearby Doornfontein, a semi-industrial area which in recent years has seen increasing vacancies due to industrial operations relocating to dedicated industrial areas. Already the Affordable Housing Company (AFHCO) has moved into the area with a number of acquisitions and conversions of industrial property to residential use. With the shortage of affordable accommodation in Johannesburg, there's a demand from tenants for property that has been effectively converted or renovated and as soon as there's an influx of residents, retail business is drawn to the area.
"As a result of this gradual transition, a number of vacant upper floor factories or warehouses have become available either to let at rentals of between R15 and R20 per square metre, but more importantly for purchase, selling at very competitive rates up to R1500 per square metre. This has created opportunities for perceptive investors including owner-occupiers to purchase properties such as these before the rest of the market realises the potential on offer. These could be auto industries such as those dealing in auto parts and accessories, light manufacturing operations or storage facilities," he says.
Mello says of further relevance is that Joe Slove Drive runs right through Doornfontein, providing easy access in and out of the area via the M1 and M2. Coupled with this is the fact that the city of Johannesburg continues to develop eastwards, joining up with the sporting precinct, which will provide a further positive stimulus for Doornfontein's rejuvenation.
Ultimately he sees Doornfontein becoming a complementary mix of industrial and residential space, with limited retail. Already the area from Ellis Park moving south up to Voorhout Street is fully industrial and very neat and well maintained. In some areas of Doornfontein there is still manufacturing taking place on the ground floor of buildings, with the upper floors standing vacant. In the main street – Joe Slovo – the ground floor of most properties comprises occupied commercial enterprises with the upper floors being partially occupied light manufacturing space or offices.
Mello says in New Doornfontein, from Lower Railway Street to Bezuidenhout Street, there are a number of one and two storey buildings that due to their run-down condition should be demolished to make way for new development, while others can be refurbished and either retained for use as factories or converted to residential – as AFHCO has done. Most of the properties between Nugget Street and Joe Slovo Drive could be converted to residential.
Just west of Doornfontein, in the Plein Street area, he says a new trend sees major businesses such as national retail and food brands moving in, replacing small businesses in a positive move which highlights the potential for sound investment in this area. "With easy access to all modes of transport and with Bree Street and the Carlton Centre to the south, centrally situated Plein Street is sought after as a location for retail premises, with rentals ranging between R100 and R140 per square metre. Because of the high trade enjoyed by retailers, there are not very many properties which become available for purchase and if they do it is in the region of R2000 per square metre. The properties in Plein Street tend to be a mix of old office blocks – some of which are used as flats, and proper apartment blocks, all with fully let shops on the ground floor. Mello says that businesses likely to be drawn to the Plein Street area are the likes of supermarkets, eateries, liquor stores, clothing and appliance shops, or those providing entertainment."

Issued by Gaye de Villiers

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