If you don’t have a clue what “new urbanism” means, you’re in good company. The hippest Century City slickers would be hard pressed to define the urban design movement that has shaped the place they call home – not to mention hundreds, if not thousands, of new suburbs and cities the world over.
New urbanism, which started in the United States in early 1980s, is about “giving people choices for living an urban lifestyle in sustainable, convenient and enjoyable places”. Wikipedia defines it as “an urban design movement which promotes walkable neighbourhoods that contain a range of housing and job types”. And according to www.newurbanism.org, “new urbanism is the revival of our lost art of place-making, and promotes the creation and restoration of compact, walkable, mixed-use cities, towns and suburbs”.
In a nutshell, it’s about creating spaces where we can live, work and play.
In a city characterised by haphazard low-density urban sprawl – which adversely impacts the environment and results in people having to commute long distances – Cape Town’s Century City is a breath of fresh air: orderly, accessible, self-contained, safe and swish.
Situated on 250 hectares, including a wetland conservation area and eight kilometres of canals, Century City is synonymous with Canal Walk, a premier shopping centre that is home to 400 shops and open seven days a week from 9am to 9pm.
Although regarded as a city within a city, the Century City Property Owners’ Association describes Century City as “a mixed-use development combining office, retail, residential and leisure components in an integrated and aesthetically pleasing environment”. Given that it’s only 12 years old and still under construction, development is an apt adjective.
In a recent press release announcing the opening of the Crystal Towers Hotel [in December 2009] Greg Deans, a director of the Rabie Property Group which is responsible for the five-star hotel and much of the development of property in Century City, said the suburb has approximately 40 000 people living or working in the precinct and over 21 million people passing through Canal Walk Shopping Centre per year.
Century City also boasts 220,000 square metres of prime office space. Deans said that leading national and international businesses as well as numerous small- to medium-size companies have set up at Century City. Blue-chip tenants include IBM South Africa, Old Mutual Private Wealth and Growthpoint Properties, the largest listed property company in SA. Deans says clients of this calibre create a demand not only for luxury accommodation but for conferencing and meeting facilities that are slick and state of the art.
The Crystal Towers development includes an apartment tower made up of 91 luxury units, ranging from studios aimed at business travellers to larger apartments aimed at owner occupiers. Apartments are priced from R1,5 million to over R10 million for duplex penthouses. Deans said there had been strong interest in the apartments, with 22 already sold. Construction is due to be complete in March. Investors, he said, had the option of putting their properties in the Crystal Towers Rental Pool for short-term letting, which can potentially generate returns of over 10% a year.
Return on investment in Century City has always been strong, making it all the more attractive to investors and homeowners. Demand for property in Century City is always high. According to Deeds Office data supplied by Lightstone property professionals, over the past 12 months only 200 properties in Century City changed hands.
The average price of a freehold property in Century City last year was R2m, and the average price of a sectional title property was R1.4m. Century City comprises 90% sectional title and 10% freehold property.
Therina Gericke first bought property in Century City in 2004. At the time, she was working in the suburb and the prospect of living in a newly developed apartment a stone’s throw from work held appeal.
She recently sold her apartment and upgraded to a house in a security complex in Century City, even though she no longer works in the suburb. Gericks sold her apartment for R970 000, having paid R560 000 for it.
The three-bedroom house which she just bought has two full bathrooms and a single garage. The erf is roughly 390 square metres, and she paid R1,3 million for the property. “Century City is cosmopolitan and central; it feels as if you’re a 15-minute drive from anywhere. And even though we’re close to the N1, we hardly ever hear the traffic. I also appreciate the developed infrastructure, with shops, gym and various other amenities nearby.”
Proximity to the city centre is a major plus, too. Gericks says getting to work is a breeze. “On a bad day it can take me 25 to 30 minutes to get to work, but if I leave at 9am, it takes 10 minutes”.
Being such an important business node situated on the N1, which is chronically congested during peak hours, Century City is serviced by public transport, with frequent buses and taxis ferrying people in and out of the suburb.
Yet this is to receive a welcome boost. A new R60m railway station is expected to be complete before May and Century City is also being included in the City’s Bus Rapid Transit system to carry commuters to and from the CBD.
Melita Potgieter bought her two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment for R720 000 at the end of 2005. Like Gericke, she also bought to be close to her workplace in the new suburb. Her 72 square metre home has appreciated nicely since she bought and could now easily fetch R920k.
Potgieter says that while she’s very happy with the suburb, she has been less than charmed with the contractor who built her home. Although she was not the first owner of the property, she and others in her complex have had issues with dampness and overflowing toilets, due to cheap and/or poor fittings. “I appreciate that the contractor is still coming back to fix these things, but I’d think twice about buying from them again”.
Gericke says her only complaint about living in Century City is the noise pollution from Ratanga Junction. But not even the sound of thrill-seekers screeching and screaming all day would drive her away. “As long as I live in Cape Town, I’ll live in Century City. We have a great retirement complex – Oasis Retirement Village – so maybe I’ll end off there!” she chuckles.