Even though the city has and is benefiting from various urban renewal initiatives, heritage is at the forefront of the dynamic revitalisation of the city centre.
“We are proud to manage heritage buildings such as Tudor Chambers,” says Jeffrey Wapnick, managing director of City Property.
Built in the early 1900s and once the tallest building on Church Square, Tudor Chambers is still functional as various legal firms proudly boast an address at this heritage building. Archived pictures show horse and carriages en route to Church Square, where there was no need for parking but rather a space to house your horse.
Recently the need for parking in the CBD has increased but Wapnick believes that with the introduction of the Gautrain and A Re Yeng bus services, the various taxi routes, as well as technological innovations such as Uber and Taxify, corporates should reconsider and adjust their perceptions of the CBD and consider the inner city as a viable solution for various space requirements.
“When we started 50 years ago, our focus area was office buildings. We continued to manage more commercial properties and 20 years later we identified the need for residential apartments, in line with the needs of the people in the city who were travelling far distances to get to work. In converting the buildings from offices to quality residential offerings, we ‘recycled’ what some considered ‘irrelevant’ commercial buildings to make them relevant again. By providing accommodation in close proximity to places where people work and study, we believe we started the movement to provide safe, quality accommodation that all people can call home.”
“Reuben’s Place is a building that was transformed from an old office block to a place families now call home.”
Wapnick says that “over the past four years we have been involved with the construction of two major developments in the inner city, one on Mutual and Sharon’s Place, a collective investment of over half a billion rand. As we operate in an urban environment, the challenge is always to incorporate the old with the new in order to give older properties and areas a new lease of life, while catering to the needs of the market in a sustainable way.”
City Property has been leading the urban renewal campaign in the capital. Over 10 years ago the company introduced play areas for kids to run free and braai facilities, as it realised tenants needed a place to relax over weekends. From a courtyard-feel with a sandpit at Jeff’s Place to a more bespoke play area at One on Mutual, the company has recently completed its biggest leisure area to date with almost 3000m² of open, green and leisure space at Sharon’s Place.
Wapnick explains that City Property sees itself as a catalyst in changing environments. “We have been uplifting the city for as long as we’ve been in existence and have been able to allow people to move to the city to be close to where they work and shop. The durability and quality associated with our apartments and offices extend beyond the security desk and foyer areas. To this end, we’ve undertaken a number of projects to benefit the users of the public spaces at large, not only our tenants. These include art installations, leisure spaces, security, cleaning and other initiatives.”
By injecting vitality back into the city and transforming the look and feel of previously run down areas, the property management company makes “old” spaces look “new”, creating an area that people from all walks of life want to spend time in. “We have an enthusiasm for all aspects of city life and by constantly introducing new initiatives we hope to reignite consumer interest in urban areas. 012Central is doing just that. It is creating an interest in a space that was previously irrelevant.”
Says Wapnick: “The main venue was previously used to store taxis and taxi parts. It was dirty, oily and smelly. Despite this, we knew this was an exceptionally well-located property. We took a leap of faith and decided the undertaking was worth the risk. 012Central allows people to get out of their homes and walk the streets, enjoying what the city has to offer.”
With more than half of South Africa’s population living in cities, urbanisation is driving the change in the capital and opening the doors for people to take advantage of opportunities. Wapnick acknowledges that the company’s interests are intertwined with those of the City of Tshwane in creating a thriving, living and attractive city.
“The environment has changed over the years. We have seen an increase in taxis and informal traders that provide and sell services and products to the huge commuter base that traverse the city on a daily basis. Similarly, the CBD shops are enjoying excellent support as is evident by the increase in the number of national tenants taking up space in these prime locations.
“Our residential developments talk to sustainable, affordable solutions for those who prefer to live in an urban environment without compromising on safety, quality or amenities. In order to remain relevant we continue to update our offerings to cater for the needs of those living in the city, travelling through or simply arriving to work or play. Most importantly, our city is beautiful and ever-youthful, as it continues to attract young residents. City dwellers under the age of 40 see and experience the city in a different way and in order to remain relevant to this age group, we need to collaborate at every level to ensure a city that is safe, clean, accessible, people-friendly and where public-private partnerships work to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.”