Durban – Credited for decades as the premier holiday destination on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, the once sleepy town of Ballito is rapidly shrugging off that reputation to emerge as an investors’ paradise.
Established in 1954 as a private township, Ballito is about 40km north of Durban and falls within the KwaDukuza local municipality and iLembe district municipality.
The town’s name was allegedly borrowed from a glossy advertisement for Ballito hosiery made by a company in St Alban’s, England, of the same name.
The land was originally part of the Compensation Beach sugar cane farm owned by Basil Townsend.
When an advertisement was printed in The Sunday Tribune in 1954 inviting potential investors to the north coast, land in Ballito Bay (Ballitoville) was being sold from R790 (South African £395). Within a decade the zonings for Ballitoville’s residential buildings, hotels and a caravan park had been incorporated into the town plan known as Compensation Beach.
Today Ballito boasts three large-scale shopping centres – the Lifestyle Centre, Ballito Bay Mall and Ballito Junction Mall, which opened as a regional centre in March after an upgrade that expanded the retail space to 80 000m² and more than 200 shops, restaurants and services.
The town’s business sector has grown significantly in the past 20 years to offer an extensive commercial zone bordering the N2 freeway, among other developments.
The Ballito Business Park area incorporates smaller business park developments offering investors buying and letting options from mini-factories to showrooms and manufacturing sites.
Two hotels accommodate demands for business travellers in the heart of the commercial zone.
HBR Projects director Horst Keil says Ballito is growing at an unprecedented rate, driven largely by its prized northern location, proximity to the King Shaka International Airport and Dube TradePort and steady demand for accommodation and retail property as increasing numbers of families opt to live permanently in the town.
“A good gauge of growth is always retail demand and the addition of the mega Ballito Junction Mall to the existing offerings at Ballito Lifestyle Centre speaks volumes.
“Not only does the centre imply a growing retail market, but clearly the 1 500 people employed there required homes,” he says.
ComProp director Louise Gibson says the commercial property specialist company anticipates the next commercial boom in Ballito to follow the successful wave of existing and new residential estates developed in the town.
Established in 2005, ComProp specialises in commercial and industrial property sales, rentals, management, marketing and maintenance covering the Ballito, north coast, Umhlanga and Zululand areas.
“One of the secrets of successful commercial property investment is to buy early while prices are low and then hold on to the properties to ultimately achieve a good return,” she says, indicating ComProp currently has several developers launching new commercial opportunities for sale.
These include A-grade offices in the Salt Rock area from R2.1m and new mini-factories at nearby Imbonini from R627 000.
The company’s website reflects other opportunities like a mini-factory on the market for R1.25m in Ballito Business Park’s Kyalami Business Park.
Keller Williams Realty has a mini-factory site in Platinum Park, one of the first mini-factory developments built in Ballito Business Park, on the market for R2.66m, and Chas Everitt has an office block for R37.5m.
Chas Everitt commercial property agent Mark Winchester says the office block has sound security with swift access to the main arterial routes, amenities and shopping centres. The adjacent land measuring 6 407m² is also available for sale.
Rentals in the Ballito Business Park range between R65/m² and R80/m².
Inland of the N2 additional commercial land has come to the market with the Rivers Church, Uni-span Framework and Scaffolding and Corobrik already investing into significant developments.
The zone currently has flat serviced land parcels for sale to developers and the bulk infrastructure has been completed.
Reasons for recent growth
Transport and infrastructure upgrade
Development of King Shaka International Airport and Dube TradePort in 2010 has provided the KwaZulu-Natal north coast with a world-class airport and business export zone. This has opened up the north coast for commercial and industrial development. The main entrance to the town off the N2 highway has been upgraded to ease traffic and the road widened into four lanes in Ballito Drive.
Premium residential development opportunities were initially triggered in the mid-1990s when Tongaat Hulett Developments released land for the exclusive Zimbali Coastal Resort and Estate.
The investment attracted the international global brand Fairmont to build a world-renowned hotel and has been a drawcard for hundreds of additional residential properties in gated communities. This has shifted Ballito from a holiday town into a place of permanent residence and thus anchored commercial and industrial developments.
Sound town planning
When Ballito’s economic growth began to soar, the town elders proactively considered the impact of substantial development on the area.
Planning considerations have taken into account growth for the next 15 years with initiatives moving beyond the theory to the practical in line with private sector development.
The substantial investment into tourism products, including new hotels and resorts, has underpinned further property developments including residential, office, commercial and industrial, growing demand for work-play balance.
Globally, demand for a better balance between work and leisure has prompted a shift to mixed-use developments for accommodating retail, entertainment, office and residential. People are dismissing long commutes and the release of former sugar cane land by Tongaat Hulett Developments around Ballito paved the way for development opportunities in line with this concept.
Industries that have invested in the area
The international brands available in South Africa have established showrooms in Ballito to provide leading models to the growing business and residential community. Ancillary businesses to the motor trade, including parts manufacturers and tyre retailers, also have a significant presence in the town’s commercial hubs.
The substantial residential development in Ballito in the past 20 years has triggered corresponding investment into homeware products and retailers. These include bathroom specialists, tile manufacturers, home decor outlets, electrical suppliers and specialist retailers like Hirsch’s, where the family-owned company has built one of its megastore outlets.
Another reflection of the shift in Ballito’s composition from a holiday destination to a fully-fledged town is the growth in retail outlets, specifically large and regional shopping centres.
The Lifestyle Centre was the inaugural foray into this space, but others have followed with the multi-billion-rand upgrade to the Ballito Junction completed in March this year as the latest addition.
Ballito’s proximity to King Shaka International Airport and Dube TradePort, as well as the newly-launched development zones like Cornubia, Sibaya and Bridge City that have triggered infrastructural upgrades, has attracted logistics companies to establish offices and warehouses in Ballito’s business district.
Hotel and leisure
Ballito’s breathtaking beaches and holiday spirit have also generated significant investment into the tourism and leisure industry. This has included five-star luxury hotels, establishments catering for the business traveller and smaller
niche market properties like boutique hotels and bed-and-breakfast options. Commercial ventures have also seen an explosion of restaurants, with national chains opening new branches and independent restaurateurs tempting local residents and holidaymakers
with signature dishes.
The Independent on Saturday