By: Ujuh Reporter
A new center shall rise on the eastern edges of the Johannesburg Central Business District (CBD) on the back of a R2 billion property investment into mixed use developments linking the the Absa Towers, Jewel City and Maboneng precincts. Anchored by multitudes of affordable housing units, the project promises to change the way of life in the Johannesburg city whose large parts have remained as ghost towns.
Undertaken by Divercity Urban Property Fund the investment shapes up through acquisition of old commercial city center properties and transforming them into modern living spaces. Anchored by the acquisition of the 30-storey ABSA Towers Main building and the Jewel City properties.
Its essence is well captured by one of the partners in the project, Tebogo Mogashoa, Chairman of Talis Property Fund and Atterbury Property Fund. “Creating affordable rental accommodation in a mixed-use precinct in a central city location gives wage-earning employees the opportunity to live close to work, which is extremely rare by global standards, and especially so in South Africa. Besides the luxury of offering a short walk to work, the pedestrianised precinct is also integrated with public transport for those who travel further.”
The currently unoccupied Absa Towers will be redeveloped into a mixed-use with 520 affordably priced residential rental apartments, a floor of coffee shops, restaurants and recreation, ground floor convenience retail, child care facilities, a public park, integrated public transport facilities and a wealth of public art. ABSA which sold the property to Divercity will also be leasing back nine floors with 10,000sqm of office space in the redeveloped building.
Once completed, the Absa Towers development will be valued at over R400m. The project will commence in early 2019, with ABSA expected to reoccupy the towers early in 2020. The 20 floors dedicated to residential accommodation and recreation will be launched in various phases.
Jewel City, the former heart of the diamond and precious metals trade in Johannesburg, will reopen to the public as a vibrant mixed-use precinct with a fully pedestrianized streetscape and a total development value of over R1.2bn once fully completed. The project includes the redevelopment of existing buildings as well as the construction of over 40,000sqm of new buildings in the precinct.
The rejuvenated Jewel City will include a school, clinic, gym, parking and convenience retail as well as fast food and restaurants. It will also include 20,000sqm of commercial space, 1,200 new residential apartments in phase one and up to 1,000 in phase two. The pedestrian-friendly walkway between Absa Tower Main and Maboneng will past directly through it.
Work on the Jewel City project begins in November with the first phase of retail, commercial and residential space set to be ready by August 2019.
Divercity is a new entity formed to focus on investing in thriving mixed-use inner-city precincts. The operation is backed by Atterbury, Ithemba Property, RMH Property and Nedbank Property Partners.
Wouter de Vos, CEO of Atterbury Property Fund, says: “Divercity is leading the way in creating inclusive, sustainable, amenity-rich neighbourhoods and inspiring others to commit to the vision of regenerated cities. The ABSA Towers Main and Jewel City projects are iconic and symbolic of where Divercity is going.”
Wendy Cuthbert, head of Absa Corporate Real Estate Solutions said “We are constantly looking for ways to express who the new Absa is and what we stand for. We are taking an old building and giving it a new lease on life to benefit our colleagues and the broader community. It’s about finding new ways of getting things done by creating a vibrant space where we can live, work and play together.”
Rian Reyneke, CEO of Ithemba, says: “With its partners, Divercity has an established track record of successful commercial development and good placemaking. Like Divercity, ABSA is deeply committed to the Joburg inner city. This commitment and urban regeneration are the shared focus behind the project. Our likeminded partnership has made it possible to redevelop a building as significant as ABSA Towers Main.”
Besides creating an inclusive new world-class ‘live, work, play’ environment, the project is also designed to enhance the area as a whole. As part of a wider neighbourhood development initiative, a pedestrian-friendly walkway with street furniture, lighting and art will be created from ABSA Towers Main all the way to Maboneng. This unique urban intervention prioritizes pedestrians and people of the local community above vehicular traffic.
Between ABSA Tower Main and Maboneng is Jewel City, the former heart of the diamond and precious metals trade in Johannesburg, which spans six city blocks that have been closed off to the public for decades. Divercity acquired Jewel City from Redefine Properties and the property transferred on 1 October 2018.
In the next 18 months alone, with its ABSA Towers Main and Jewel City projects as well as R400m of residential accommodation under development in Maboneng, Divercity will launch more than 75,000sqm of new residential space in Joburg – more than 2,500 apartments in total.