Most lifestyle estates strive to create a sense of community, yet few succeed. So, how has Kyalami Estates managed to get it right?
Wander through any of the events that Kyalami Estates host annually and you’ll notice that almost every resident stops on their way to greet their neighbours. It’s the kind of collegial atmosphere that most residential estates try to emulate but, although they might achieve friendliness, cohesiveness often remains just out of reach. Yet it appears to be an integral part of the Kyalami Estates character; indeed, it’s one of Estate’s defining qualities.
This kind of unity doesn’t happen by accident; rather, it’s a happy product of many factors, according to Kyalami Estates’ manager, Heather Bowes. ‘We’ve noticed that it’s definitely been enhanced since our recent upgrades,’ she comments. She’s referring to the latest round in a four-year programme which has seen almost every facet of the Estate refreshed and revitalised. The project started with the sports centre, including the outdoor gym and parking area, and the focus then moved to the clubhouse and the main offices. Simultaneously, the Estate’s parks have also been on the receiving end of a revamp – so far seven of the total 16 have been completed.
Bowes explains that it was a key objective to introduce new play equipment for the Estate’s children. She went on to say it was also necessary to create ecosystems that would add to residents’ overall experience of the Estate, planting indigenous gardens that would attract birds and butterflies, for instance.
Although these renovations were part of a budgeted and meticulously rolled out plan formulated by the homeowners association, Philip Coetzee, Communications Director, reports that a number of residents are busy with refurbishing their own homes. What’s interesting about these renovations is that they amplify the singular character of each home. This is another of Kyalami Estates’ attributes, Coetzee maintains: where most estates enforce rigid architectural guidelines, resulting in a cookie-cutter sameness, the variety that gives Kyalami Estates its trademark appearance is one of its key assets.
‘I love the fact that when you look across the Estate, you don’t see rows and rows of cloned roofs. We have houses here to suit everyone, from the very modern to the Mediterraneaninfluenced, from country cottage to classic.’
He says that this individuality came about thanks to Kyalami Estates’ slow and steady evolution. ‘The Estate was one of the first of its kind,’ he points out. ‘Back then, the accent was very much on providing a secure alternative to suburban living. There wasn’t the intense emphasis on lifestyle and architectural guidelines, as there is now.’
That’s not to say that Kyalami Estates has neglected the lifestyle aspect of estate living. On the contrary, Bowes believes that this is at the root of the Estate’s special community feeling. The multitude of parks have a significant role to play in this regard: visit any of these areas at any time, and you’ll notice a crowd of children meeting and making friends.
The Estate’s regular events are also key: in addition to a festive season celebration, a fabulous wine festival is hosted every spring, while winter gets its own dedicated function.
At the same time, residents are brought together by activities offered at the community centre, such as hip-hop, social dancing and a variety of other clubs. The range of activities means that there’s something for every age group, allowing the entire family to get involved. On the other hand, a number of groups within the Estate have come together to create their own activities. It’s not uncommon to see moms gathering for yoga under the trees, for example, or for teens to meet in the parks on the weekend for some social activity.
Of course, it’s one thing to host these events and activities and quite another to make sure they are well attended, and more than this, to ensure that a spirit of neighbourliness prevails. It’s impossible to ‘manufacture’ this culture; it’s something that grows out of the residents themselves, Coetzee acknowledges. What’s helped here is the low household turnover. Coetzee says that most of Kyalami Estates’ residents live in the Estate for an average of 18 years – not bad considering that the Estate itself is only 30 years old. Many of the homes have been remodelled or refurbished over the years. People may even purchase larger homes within the Estate to cater for their growing families, but when the empty-nest stage sets in Kyalami Estates has properties for this time of life too. ‘There’s a natural closeness that develops when your family has grown up alongside that of your neighbour,’ Coetzee says.
The homeowners association has taken care to make sure that the community spirit is nurtured not only among residents, but among staff members too.
This is vital, Bowes points out, because a community needs firm foundations if it is to flourish. To this end, the association has implemented projects like a food garden, which is tended by all, with the produce shared by all.
Coetzee recounts a story which, to him, encapsulates the Kyalami Estates spirit. ‘A few days ago, a resident suggested that we set up a monthly marketplace where people could barter or swap objects. I love this idea. It shows me that we have been successful in creating the atmosphere we set out to achieve, one which is underscored by a common mindset where people are able to meet and mingle. Above all, it shows me that people who live in Kyalami Estates have a sense of belonging – after all, isn’t that the reason people choose to live at lifestyle estates?’