Developers are known to see things that others may not and create something superb out of relatively little. Take the Century City development for example, which, for ordinary Capetonians in the 1990s, was a piece of left-over land, uninhabited and waterlogged. Yet for the Rabie Property Group, it abounded with opportunity and potential.
They purchased the area from Nedbank in 2004, after successfully completing the 445-unit Island Club residential development. At the time, only the Canal Walk shopping centre, the Ratanga Junction theme park and a few scattered offices were in operation and no one had fully realised the residential potential of the development.
The biggest advantage and drawcard for possible residents was the strategic position of Century City – being part of neither the northern or southern suburbs nor the west coast. Instead, it sat nicely in the middle and parallel to one of the main road networks in the Western Cape, the N1.
“We saw the value of introducing a residential component. However, we had to reposition Century City as there was no brand to speak of. Since we have been there, the group has taken 200 000 square metres of developed bulk land and grown it to one million square metres of development. This highlights the importance of providing developers with a basket of rights, including retail, office, residential, and hotel, which should be considered by more municipalities in South Africa,” says John Chapman, director at Rabie Property Group.
He feels that one of the biggest success stories to come out of the Century City mixed-use development is the establishment of an independent property owners’ association, which shares the developer’s vision but is at arm’s length of the developer providing checks and balances in the interests of all stakeholders.
“More than R 42 million in levies were collected by the Century City Property Owners’ Association (CCPOA) in the past financial year, with every cent being ploughed back into Century City. The Board of Directors, on which we have representation, and the CEO of the CCPOA manage those components.”
Another unique aspect of the development, and one that could be followed by more municipalities, is that the release of the developer’s rights is linked to infrastructure projects, both internally and around Century City, which need to be undertaken before additional development can take place. Infrastructure projects undertaken to date include the widening of Bosmansdam Road and Sable Road, the MyCiTi bus terminus and the Century City Railway Station. Additional infrastructure that will need to be completed before the precinct is fully developed is the building of a R 190 million bridge across the N1, which will benefit everyone who may use it.
For residents, there is a plethora of activities and services, as well as over 8km of canals and Intaka Island, a nature reserve right at the centre of the precinct. Intaka Island forms the heart of Century City and the building of a visitors’ centre and upgraded pathways have helped improve visitor numbers from 1 000 per year in 2005 to 35 000 in 2016, including 10 000 school children, many of them underprivileged. If anything, Intaka, which celebrated its 21st birthday in 2017, is a perfect example of how development and nature can co-exist in harmony. Other green building practices in Century City include the use of treated effluent from Potsdam Water Works for all the irrigation in the precinct, which is also home to 17 Green Star-rated buildings with two more under construction. Many of Rabie’s developments at Century City have won national and international awards.
For Rabie, this development is certainly more than bricks and mortar; it is about developing a community and a community spirit. For the first time, they are involved in a development with a long-term vision and have managed to successfully create a safe, clean and secure environment with plenty of community activities including park runs, food markets, open-air theatres, sports activities and seasonal festivities as well as an arts foundation for all to enjoy.
“More recently, the Century City Arts Foundation has been created, introducing an arts trail already featuring 27 exhibits. Any city in Europe celebrates its artists and that is something we are keen on growing here as well,” adds Chapman.
Unlike the usual community living seen in South Africa, Century City is not fully gated, but still has a robust security detail, comprising recently opened and state-of-the-art security operations. Licence plate recognition, coupled with 135 cameras, five patrolling vehicles and access control for those developments that are gated, ensures peace of mind for everyone within the precinct.
Despite being a high-density place, Century City is home to a varied mix of residents. There are six on-site hotels, including the 125-room Century City Hotel and the Marriot Crystal Towers, as well as a cosmopolitan mix of bars, restaurants and coffee shops.
An escalating number of young families are also attracted to the development. Part of an emerging market wanting to start living in mixed-use developments that are safe and convenient, they are drawn to the on-site Curro school, which had the quickest take-up of any in the country, as well as the convenience of having a large mall literally on their doorstep and being close to sound transport links.
Finally, retired couples are accommodated in the Oasis Retirement Village, which will eventually have 360 units and a 110-bed healthcare centre complete with two on-site doctors. A home here can cost anywhere between R 3 million and R 11 million, with a typical two-bedroomed apartment selling in the region of R 5 million. There is an indoor swimming pool, dining area, gyms as well as a lounge area for movie theatres and coffee shops, and the layout follows an overseas model of a central clubhouse surrounded by apartment blocks, giving everyone equal access to the amenities.
“We are seeing many retired captains of industry wanting the benefits of a lock-up-and-go lifestyle. They want a home similar to what they had, but do not want the maintenance associated with that. Classic retirement villages are built mirroring a residential suburb with houses and small gardens. With Oasis, we have embraced an international model where the clubhouse is central to the resort and the apartments are developed around it,” comments Chapman.
Retirement has been one of the strongest areas for Century City and more retirement living options are being considered as part of the mixed-used development taking over from Ratanga Junction. The theme park is set to close its doors in May 2018, making room for 120 000 square metres of built space for further expansion of the city within a city.
“Century City is a multi-generational concept. On the one hand you have young families and on the other people who have retired. It has all the makings of a cradle-to-grave concept and one that will continue to grow as more people start discovering the benefits of this approach,” concludes Chapman.
Secure, comfortable and accessible: this is the new way of living in modern-day South Africa – living here means you can have your cake and eat it too.