Berea high rise office building converted to apartments

In what is believed to be a first for Durban, a high-rise Berea office building has been converted into residential apartments to provide a much-needed boost for the affordable accommodation market.

Following their sell-out success with similar high-rise conversions in Johannesburg’s city centre, Aengus Lifestyle Properties has entered the Durban property scene with the transformation of the landmark 14-floor Berea Centre into 133 contemporary-styled bachelor and studio loft apartments.

Richard Rubin, MD of Aengus Lifestyle Properties, says the properties, which are available to rent or to purchase, bring a new concept of urban community living to the city.

The 130 top-end apartments and three glass-fronted penthouses are perched atop 21 877 sqm of retail space, which is currently being refurbished at a cost of R40m by the building’s owners, JSE-listed ApexHi Properties. The upgrade will be completed by the end of June 2007 and has attracted a tenant mix including a number of national retailers such as Pick ‘n Pay, Woolworths and Mr Price plus 40 specialist stores.

Units are priced from around R250 000.

Set for launch next weekend, also with affordability in mind, is the 62-unit two and three bedroom Amanzi Mews on the old ‘Toti Drive In site at 262 Old Main Road in Amanzimtoti. The two storey blocks are aesthetically placed on the 13 000 sqm site, with ground floor units walking out onto garden patios. Priced from R658 000 for a two bedroom and R738 000 for a three bedroom unit, the developer Allen Isbister expects good interest from first time buyers and given the scale of expanding industry in the area, also investors.

Construction, according to marketing agents Stuart Ferguson and Wayne Cryer of Key Realtors is expected to begin in August 2007.

Meanwhile, the burgeoning town of Newcastle in northern KwaZulu-Natal is experiencing a surge in interest among property developers, many of whom are vying for vacant stands on which to develop residential properties, according to Sam Wade, Pam Golding Properties' area principal.

Contributing to growth in the area, the Century Casino was completed at the end of last year, with a 42-room hotel attached, while a second major shopping complex is on the cards for the town within the next year.

Says Wade: "The start of 2007 has been marked by rising interest from outside developers seeking land to develop. However, vacant land is fairly scarce in the top selling areas as well as in the CBD where commercial developers are also showing strong interest. The property market is active, with homes priced between R500 000 and R850 000 in high demand and with a growing demand for homes in cluster developments, in particular two bedroom units to cater for the starter homes market, but also three bedroom units of about 160sqm.

Currently, the hottest selling areas include Aviary Hill, Hutten Heights, Pioneer Park and Schuinshoogte, with Arborpark an increasingly popular area. The average price in the top areas is between R800 000 and R1,1 million, while the average price in lower income areas ranges from around R400 000 to R550 000

Fuelling the demand for homes in Newcastle, according to Wade, is an influx of families drawn by new business opportunities as well as from black buyers moving in from the neighbouring township, Madadeni - who wish to live closer to the central business district.

In recent years Newcastle’s appreciation of residential property has exceeded 15 percent annually, even as high as 20 percent in some instances.

PGP Newcastle is currently marketing numerous townhouse developments, one of which is an 18 unit complex in Pioneer Park, where two and three bedroom units are priced between R540 000 and R645 000.

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