Restoration development the next big thing

As development land becomes scarcer and building and service costs rocket, greater emphasis is being placed on restorative development.

“This refers to the redevelopment of older or decaying residential areas to return value to existing infrastructure, and is widely seen as a solution to urban sprawl, as well as a way to halt further degradation of the natural environment and preserve scarce resources,” says Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group.

Already accounting for more than a US$1-trillion spent worldwide, the trend also represents a rapidly growing economic development opportunity for businesses and individual investors as well as communities, according to real estate analysts.

In cities that tend to become ever more densely populated, greater emphasis on neighbourhoods that integrate a clean environment, historic preservation and a mix of new and restorative development is becoming imperative, they say.

Writing in the Property Signposts newsletter, Everitt explains that restoring a built environment includes:

* the renovation and rehabilitation of residential buildings;

* adaptive re-use, which refers to remodelling disused factories and warehouses into housing; and

* replacement, also referred to as infill, since it involves using open spaces between existing buildings for development to optimise existing infrastructure such as roads and the water and electricity supply grids.

“And as far as the natural environment is concerned, restoration includes cleaning up pollution in rivers, streams and green areas, and rehabilitating landfills and turning them into green spaces.”

For restorative development to take off, however, cities often have to lift restrictions to enable innovative re-use of land and buildings, and create incentives for renovation, with the payback coming in the form of reduced pressure on their infrastructures.

“This is already happening to a certain extent in SA and we are starting to see the positive effects in the inner cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg.

“However, the most successful ‘restoration developers’ ultimately are likely to be those who can devise fully integrated projects that take account of the natural as well as the built environment.”

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