Pillay's finger on property market pulse

The Mercury

Durban attorney-turned-property developer Vejan Pillay got into the property industry at the right time.

About a decade ago he decided to get into property development at the start of the biggest boom period in the South African property sector: La Lucia and uMhlanga Ridge was one of the fastest-growing commercial property nodes in the country.

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Durban05112012 Property developers Vegan and Jenny Pillay with Clifton Smithers.Picture:Marilyn BernardAn artists impression of the Central Park development in Umhlanga, adjacent to the Urban Park Hotel and mixed-use property project.

Despite the property sector having been hit hard by the effects of the global downturn since 2009, Pillay has continued to invest in the burgeoning node.

Last week, Pillay’s company Misty Blue Investments launched its latest development to the market, a multimillion-rand residential project dubbed Central Park.

The development is next to the landmark uMhlanga Porsche dealership and another of Pillay’s property projects, the R150 million Urban Park mixed-use development near the Parkside precinct.

Central Park is Pillay’s sixth major property project to be launched in the past decade. Together the developments represent an investment of over R500m.

Speaking to Network, he said Central Park was one of his most innovative and exciting developments to date.

“This development will complement Urban Park, and together they will add positive momentum to development in the area. The focus in recent years has been development in front of Gateway and around Parkside, but these developments will spur development around the Porsche dealership, which overlooks the N2 and is set to get direct access from the highway with a new interchange planned,” he said.

Pillay said they were looking to develop Central Park over two phases with the first phase making up 177 residential units in a unique design around a park within the property, hence the name.

“This is just not another apartment block development. Besides the park, which will have a running track and big indoor pool, other innovations include the sustainable design, and apartment owners having the ability to drive directly to the level of their apartments. We have worked on this project with PGA Architects and design company Union 3, who we have an established relationship with,” he said.

Pillay said Urban Park, which was a mixed-use development that included a 92-room, four-star hotel, 159 residential units and several commercial and retail outlets planned for the lower levels, was set to open in mid-December. The hotel would be managed by Durban-based hotel operator Three Cities Group, which already manages The Square Boutique Hotel, also developed by Misty Blue Investments.

Pillay said they had decided to develop Central Park as a wholly residential development after receiving tremendous demand for quality, but value-for-money, residential flats in the area.

“Interest for residential units are now increasing with a trend of increasing demand for bigger apartments and family units as the area develops. Still, 50 to 60 percent of the buyers are investment buyers who are looking to rent out the properties. Demand for rental units in the area is increasing as more families and professionals are attracted to the area,” he said.

Pillay’s first property development with other business partners was the landmark Grand Floridian luxury residential project in La Lucia about 10 years ago. He has since gone out on his own and developed Millennium Towers, Aldrovande Palace and The Square Boutique Hotel – all in the La Lucia and uMhlanga area.

He acquired Misty Blue Investments and The Square commercial property about five years ago and runs the company with his wife, Jenny. Just before the World Cup in 2010, he opened the hotel component, which added to the mixed-use offering of the property.

Pillay does not believe he is a property expert as yet, and said he was learning as he went along with each new property project. He and his wife have more than 20 years’ experience in law, having specialised in property law and conveyancing, which got them a foot into the property development industry.

He said that as a property developer it was important to adapt to the market to weather the downturns and other changes in the business environment.

“Anyone can develop in a boom. The trick is how you adapt and get through the tough periods such as the recent global economic downturn, which also hit our industry,” he said.

“We have good partners. The value they have added is seen in our property projects, which are more innovative and sustainably developed with the experience we have garnered.”

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