A ticket to high-density living

THE Gautrain Rapid Rail Link is expected to be a catalyst for billions of rands worth of property development ranging from new residential space to offices and retail property around Gauteng.

The Gautrain project team, which includes such disciplines as town planners, quantity surveyors and civil engineers, says all the rail stations on the Gautrain’s route are places where the “impact of the Gautrain will be felt”.

“The stations will be the hubs and these stations must become places of possible 24-hour activity. These are typically areas where mixed land use will work.”

The team says the metropolis has just not developed at the required densities to support public transport effectively and South Africans are car orientated.

“What played an important role in identifying all the stations was the potential for them to become high-impact, mixed land use nodes. All these stations are seen by the Gautrain project team as potential mixed-use hubs.”

The team says, for instance, that Rosebank, Sandton and Hatfield, and to a lesser extent Centurion, are already existing commercial and retail nodes and that in these areas the result would be the densification of residential property.

The team says there is already a trend towards residential development in these four areas because of the strong retail, office and entertainment components. The team says it knows of at least two pending applications for high-rise (14-storey) apartment block developments in Rosebank.

However, as far as Pretoria and Park stations are concerned, the emphasis will be on urban renewal. “There are buildings there (Park and Pretoria) but they are not being utilised to their full potential. These are mainly offices and residential property. There is also a retail offering,” the team says.

The Rhodesfield station site on the edge of Kempton Park is surrounded by “fantastic regional infrastructure” and has been earmarked for significant commercial property development such as retail, light industrial warehousing and offices.

The Marlboro station site, adjacent to the Frankenwald land site, has “good regional access”.

“Applications are already in with the City of Johannesburg to build high-density residential, a large retail component as well as offices. This is a multibillion-rand development waiting to be developed (at Frankenwald),” says the team.

There are also development opportunities around the station site itself for commercial uses such as hospitals and regional office headquarters.

There has also been a lot of activity on the part of developers on the western side of Midrand’s Zonki’Zizwe site.

“We know land has been bought up there by virtually all of the big property players.

“We think one can see the development of the future central area of Midrand shifting to this area around the (Zonki’Zizwe) station and the (Johannesburg) council is in agreement with that,” the team says.

Development executive for Old Mutual Properties Brent Wiltshire says the go-head for the Gautrain has led to the group’s planning of the 220ha Zonki’Zizwe mixed-use site.

But Wiltshire says their urban plan is now dependent on whether the Gautrain will be above or below ground at the site.

“It was originally planned to have the Gautrain underground. But this has changed and the Gautrain project team is now talking about putting it above ground. This will change all our plans completely because we’d have a rail line going through the site,” he says.

But Wiltshire says Old Mutual plans to get the infrastructure development on the site started by the second half of this year.

He says the original costing for the entire Zonki’Zizwe development, which will consist of retail, office, industrial and residential properties, was about R6bn.

But Wiltshire says it will no doubt cost more because of rising building costs and the fact that they may have to cater for an above-ground station.

The Gautrain team says Centurion will also see a surge in residential property development. The team says it knows of three apartment blocks of at least 30 storeys being planned as a reaction to the rail link.

They say the Gautrain would lead to greater high-density living along the lines of Hillbrow, Berea, Sandton, Killarney, Sunnyside and Hatfield.

Article by: Nick Wilson - www.businessday.co.za