Mafiken - from ghost to boom town!

MAFIKENG, once a ghost town, is now on the verge of a boom , particularly as far as residential and retail property is concerned.

The main reason for the turnaround is government's decision to keep the provincial government of North West in the city.

Peter O'Connor, principal of Jennie Smith Properties in Mafikeng, says that after the reincorporation of Bophuthatswana into SA proper, many companies in Mafikeng were downsized, which lead to retrenchments and people moving out of the area.

"The economy was in a slump, house prices went down 50% from what they were in Bophuthatswana," O'Connor says.

There was uncertainty as to whether Mafikeng would remain the provincial capital.

"That uncertainty has been cleared up and a lot of government departments have relocated back to Mafikeng," he says.

This has increased the demand for residential and office accommodation.

"We haven't seen much in the way of residential development since 1994.

"The relocation of companies back to Mafikeng happened over a period of one-and-a-half to two years and the residential property market has not been able to cope with the demand.

"Only recently have the returns on residential property in Mafikeng been high enough to interest developers in building new houses," says O'Connor.

Mafikeng is surrounded by tribal and Parks Board land, making expansion difficult.

"There is a shortage of municipal land. The municipality has the obligation to facilitate development, but they can't because they are running out of municipal land," he says.

Because of this house prices are "unbelievable" in Mafikeng. O'Connor says that in the past two years house prices have doubled in the middle-income bracket. A house that now fetches R500000-R600000 would have gone for R250000-R300000 two or three years ago.

Two years ago vacancies were high in the rental residential market. "Now you can't find residential rental accommodation for the love of money."

Rodger Groenewald, head of housing in the Mafikeng municipality's directorate of planning and development, says the submission of development applications for residential and business developments is "picking up".

Groenewald says there is a shortage of residential property in Mafikeng but the municipality is drawing up with a development plan for two different areas, one for commercial properties, the other residential.

"There are also plans to develop more government offices.

"There is huge demand for residential property," Groenewald says. "We do have land available but we don't as yet have a development plan because the directorate of planning and development of the Mafikeng municipality is working on a spatial development plan on how best to utilise the open spaces for residential and commercial uses."

There has also been a move to have Mafikeng declared an industrial development zone. "It is already in the pipeline, we are awaiting a declaration from national government," he says.

If Mafikeng were declared a development zone, the cargo load in Johannesburg would be reduced and the town could be used as a gateway to other African states such as Botswana, Namibia, Angola and Zambia, he says.

Groenewald says the municipality would like to see Mafikeng developed into a transport hub. He says the town has a "very big airport with a very long runway".

General business is picking up, he says, and a big shopping centre is to be built at a cost of about R140m.

Refurbishments are taking place at the 46846m² Mega City regional shopping complex .

JHI Real Estate, which manages Mega City together with Dijalo Properties, says one of the strongest features of the Mega City complex is its position within the government district, which includes judicial, provincial, national and local departments.

JHI says that it taps into this key driver by virtue of the fact that its East and West Gallery office towers link office workers directly to the centre.

It says that the towers include a number of businesses that strategically service the precinct in one way or another.

The towers' anchor office tenants include the public works and finance departments, as well as the provincial legislature.

The Mega City centre's tenants include fashion retailers such as Foschini, Markhams, Price and Pride, Pep, Jet, Topics, Milady's, Total Sports, Truworths, Woolworths and Edgars.

The group says the fact that the green light has been given for a new retail centre, signifies that Mafikeng is on the road to recovery and that investors have confidence in the area.

Article from: Property Reporter - www.bday.co.za