While the commercial property market in general continues to experience the impact of the economic downturn, the Western Cape region of national property management company JHI reports that despite this, activity is still taking place in the market.
Over the past year this region of the company concluded lease transactions comprising over 76 500sqm of commercial space with a total contract value of close to R210 million.
Marius Basson, Western Cape regional director for JHI and a Capetonian who recently returned to the region after some eight years at head office in Johannesburg comments: "Evidence of some positive indicators in the market are that we have very recently concluded four transactions for new and renewed leases for office and light industrial space with a total contract value of approximately R49.5 million, while leasing, sales and investment consultant Selwyn Sharon has just sold a sectional title unit in Dunkley House, just off Dunkley Square in Gardens, for R1.3 million.
"While it is true that office vacancies in Cape Town remain relatively high and many new developments are on hold - as developers sit out the tough times, the Mother City with its buzzing city centre retains an air of expectancy. This is a dynamic and unique city which has seen a flurry of new 4 and 5 Star hotel developments such as the Taj, 15 on Orange, Coral International and One&Only."
Basson says progress regarding infrastructural improvements such as the Koeberg interchange and 'Hospital Bend' is positive, as is the expansion of Cape Town International Airport. "The completion of the Greenpoint Stadium has had a marked effect on an area already vibrant with rejuvenation, stimulating interest in the property market in the vicinity of the stadium. We also anticipate that many of the international visitors set to visit our shores during the Soccer World Cup will probably not have had much, if any, exposure to South Africa, including Cape Town. Interestingly it is said that the first tranche of such visitors, who have already purchased tickets to the event, includes a high percentage of Americans – the bulk probably never having previously visited South Africa. It is hoped this will lead to increased tourism, with economic spin-offs."
Selwyn Sharon comments that the fringes of the city, including revitalised areas of Woodstock from The Boulevard through to The Palms in Sir Lowry Road, continue to arouse interest in terms of commercial property. "As businesses increasingly show a desire to have close and easy access to the city without being right in the city centre, we will see more and more enquiries for these peripheral areas. Already we see the city moving outwards towards Wembley Square in Gardens, and signs of increasing activity in the fact that a new building is busy going up adjacent to this shopping centre."
Says Basson: "Another area which continues to evolve is Century City in Cape Town's Northern Suburbs. This area has undergone rapid growth over the past decade, with burgeoning developments in terms of the commercial property market as well as residential. It's become a major growth node with a trend towards businesses moving into the area to a pleasant working environment, far less traffic congestion and a prime shopping hub within easy reach of good residential areas - which is of benefit to employees, particularly given fluctuating fuel costs. We anticipate this area will continue to expand and that over the next five years we will see even more businesses taking up accommodation in the area."
He adds that in the current economic climate the market presents good opportunities for commercial property investors. "Even more so in a downturn investors seek well located properties – which always come up trumps and have sound potential for good returns in the future. Investors are looking for secure, tenanted properties with at least a 10 percent net return. From a rental perspective, although many rentals have increased by some 8-10 percent over the past year, due to high vacancies rental rates are negotiable. Landlords are also prepared to refurbish offices and offer rent-free settling-in allowances for long term tenants," says Basson.
Issued by Gaye de Villiers

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