Gauteng’s new elite billion-rand cities

2015-03-29 15:00

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This is the house that Douw built.

The four-storey, nouveau-Tuscan palace – which boasts four adjoining lounges that are decorated in a baroque style with marble floors and two massive aqueducts spraying waterfall jets that cascade down into a lake to form rolling tributaries – is believed to be South Africa’s most expensive private residence.

The house also has a a basement garage to showcase multibillionaire insurance magnate Douw Steyn’s collection of sports and vintage cars. The showroom allows the cars to be easily displayed and manoeuvred.

With an eye-watering price tag of R254?million – costlier than President Jacob Zuma’s homestead that cost the taxpayer R246?million – the mansion, built by Steyn and his wife Carolyn, is the jewel in the crown of the 809-hectare Steyn City, located between Fourways and Diepsloot.

Carolyn Steyn. Picture: Paul Botes

Upon completion, the complex will boast a private hospital, two private schools and a number of office parks inside its gated perimeter. Half the estate will be wooded parkland, through which there will be a 42km running track.

About 10 years ago, it was a densely populated informal settlement known as Zevenfontein – one of the oldest in the country.

Today, Steyn City – with Fourways and Waterfall Estate in Midrand – forms part of Johannesburg’s new northern frontier of exclusivity.

Developers say Steyn City is “six times the size of Sandton City, four times the size of Monaco and two and a half times the size of Central Park in New York”.

Speaking at the official launch of the new development earlier this month, the chief executive of Steyn City Properties, Giuseppe Plumari, boasted: “There is no development on the continent that I know of that compares in size and infrastructure to Steyn City.

“This will allow residents to enjoy an unparalleled array of leisure activities and create a unique quality of life that has long been out of the reach of most South Africans, due to high walls, the need to commute and security concerns.”

Steyn City is not an idle pastime for Douw Steyn. His company has injected more than R6?billion into infrastructure development, including roads, water and sewerage – with more than R50?billion to be invested in phase two.

The grand reception room. Picture: Paul Botes

In a bid to ease the notorious traffic congestion in the area, Steyn City Properties contributed R300?million – a third of the cost – towards the upgrading of the R511/William Nicol Drive into six lanes.

The company is also in discussion with government to extend William Nicol Drive all the way to the N14.

Steyn City Properties said it invested R35?million on a new water reservoir, which will also be used to supply water to residents in neighbouring Diepsloot.

Developers boast that the project has created more than 11?500 jobs for neighbouring Diepsloot and Cosmo City residents.

Close by, a plan by Accelerate Property Fund to transform Fourways Mall into a 60-storey mixed-use tower – making it the tallest in Africa – is set to further boost property prices and demand in the area.

On the other side of town, between the Buccleuch and Allandale interchanges, another development is also changing the face of Johannesburg.

Nearly triple the size of Steyn City, Waterfall Estate – set on more than 2?225 hectares – will eventually house 100?000 commercial and residential users in secure residential estates; retirement villages; business parks; a hospital; five-star hotels; a Reddam House private school as well as other schools; a large clubhouse with full gym; a cemetery; a Gautrain station; and a R3.5?billion, 800?000m² shopping centre.

It’s pretty much the cradle-to-grave of housing estates. You can be born at Waterfall Hospital, go to Waterfall School, work in Waterfall Office Park, retire in Waterfall Retirement Village – all before eventually being buried in Waterfall Cemetery.

Steyn City and Waterfall Estate have been a hit with buyers – both residential and commercial, according to their developers.

Atterbury Property Holdings, which is developing Waterfall City, said a number of corporate giants had secured their spaces to move their offices to the less cramped area.

Waterfall Equestrian Estate and Waterfall Hills were also sold out, they claimed, with only 70 stands out of 2?000 left at Waterfall Country Estate.

Meanwhile, Steyn City boasted opening sales of more than R850?million, its developers said.

Even government has given its stamp of approval.

In his state of the province address, Gauteng Premier David Makhura said these developments were aligned with the province’s planning and development strategy.

“Waterfall Estate is the largest city to be built in post-apartheid South Africa,” he said.

“The estimated investment during construction is R71?billion, with an estimated 100?000 jobs that could be created by the project.

“Our partnership with the private sector and the city of Johannesburg has resulted in a R6.5?billion injection into [the] Steyn City development, including the construction of a new arterial road [the R511] and infrastructure for basic services.

“Phase two of the development will inject in excess of R50?billion into the economy of the Gauteng city region,” he said.

Waterfall Estate is also forcing infrastructure upgrades.

National roads agency Sanral has spent around R800?million upgrading the Allandale interchange on the N1. This is where most of the traffic flowing from Pretoria and the south connect from the freeway to Waterfall Estate.

The multimillion-rand road upgrade was undertaken to ease traffic clogging.

A R160?million highway overpass is being built by Waterfall co-developer Atterbury Property Holdings to link the estate and Midrand.

City of Johannesburg spokesperson Virgil James said the new developments were in line with the city’s 2040 development plan, which included sustainable human settlements.

He insisted the city was not funding private developments, adding that all internal roads were constructed at the developers’ expense.

James said road upgrades for Steyn City included the full upgrade of William Nicol Drive from Fourways to the N14, as well as the upgrade of a large portion of Cedar Road to four lanes, with full intersection upgrades.

Waterfall developers have already “built [the] Maxwell Drive link [a four-lane road] between Allandale Road and Woodmead Drive and upgraded parts of the Allandale and Woodmead roads”, he said.

James added that Waterfall Estate was in negotiations with the city of Johannesburg for the extension of public transport services into the development.

While critics bemoan the new frontier as merely the flight of the well heeled to gated enclaves further north, advocates say it is simply a sign of the times.

“I personally think it is just a reaction to the times we are living in,” says Jean Grobler, one of Steyn City’s architects.

“Obviously we wouldn’t want to live in them if we didn’t have to, but I think in due course these boundaries will have to be removed when people start to feel safe again – so we can stop making these ‘green islands’ and start linking them back to the community again.”

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