Demand for apartments to turn Sandton into city - Blocks of flats going up like fireworks

The Sandton skyline is to be invaded by high-rise blocks of flats, some soaring to 34 storeys.

The trend towards an "American/European" city lifestyle has seen a surge in demand for high-rise residential buildings in Africa's richest square mile.

Eleven buildings are to go up, mainly in and around the Sandton business district.

Six are under construction and applications have been submitted for the rest.

But concerns have been raised about whether the area's ageing infrastructure will cope with the influx of new residents.

Congestion

"Sandton's infrastructure is not geared for this level of development," said Gilda Hurwitz, a local councillor.

"If it isn't upgraded properly, and before the new developments, it will come crashing down like a pack of cards," she said, highlighting the traffic congestion already typical in the area.

The tallest residential block under construction is the Michelangelo Towers, which will have 34 floors, in the heart of the business district.

Only six of its 190 units remain to be sold.

Another giant, planned for the corner of Grayston Drive and Bute Lane, will rise to 23 storeys.

Other developments include a 16-storey block near the Morningside Wedge shopping centre, a 15-storey building near the corner of Grayston Drive and Rivonia Road, and a 13-storey block on the corner of Grayston Drive and West Road South.

The lowest price for the flats in these developments is about R500 000, with a 125m² apartment going for R1.5-million and a penthouse in the Michelangelo Towers selling for R28-million.

Gina Zanti, deputy director of the Joburg council's land-use management department, said development of high-rise residential blocks was the "latest trend".

"We are surprised. The development has taken Sandton by storm."

Suburbs

Zanti said the council supported high-density residential developments in the business district, but did not want to see the trend extend into surrounding residential areas.

With available space in Sandton's business district almost depleted, developers are being forced to build in nearby suburbs such as Strathavon.

However, Zanti said Sandton had not reached saturation.

"With every application, each relevant service utility assesses whether the infrastructure is reaching a critical stage," she said.

Sandton's business district has been earmarked for high-density development to make it more compact and multi-functional.

"The residential aspect in Sandton will make it a 24-hour city," said Cara Reilly, brand manager of the Sandton Improvement District. "It will keep the streets alive and is a very positive thing."

Westpoint, a 222-unit development with some flats as small as 60m², sold out in 48 hours. The Axis, a 323-unit development on which construction is due to start in September, is 90% sold.

Demand for these flats is being driven by people's desire to cut down on commuting time, increase security and have easy access to entertainment.

"Convenience and luxury living are behind this trend," said Ronald Ennik, chief operations officer of Pam Golding Properties. "This happens all over the world in all major cities."

Ennik said the developments were driving Sandton towards a European or American city lifestyle where people met and mingled on the streets and in cafés.

Hylton Katz, part owner of the developers responsible for Westpoint, The Axis and the already established 77 Grayston Drive, said Sandton could not function without residential apartments. "We are already looking at more developments in the Sandton area."

Article by: Alex Eilseev - www.sundaytimes.co.za