Heart of Cape Town takes centre stage with landmark ‘Open House’ artwork

Heart of Cape Town takes centre stage with landmark ‘Open House’ artwork

View from a one-bedroom flat at The Decks, which was recently sold for R1.3 million.

Synonymous with interesting and vibrant open spaces dotted among a mix of historic, redeveloped and modern buildings which are home to businesses and residents alike, Cape Town’s central city never ceases to innovate, says Dr Andrew Golding, chief executive of the Pam Golding Property group.

“Ongoing redevelopment and transformation of Cape Town’s central city was spearheaded by the conversion from office to residential of some landmark buildings, including Mutual Heights and Cartwright’s Corner,” says Golding. “Both these buildings sold out within weeks of the launch which demonstrated the enormous pent-up demand for central city living and sparked off a trend which at its height saw the launch of Mandela Rhodes Place in 2006. Since then the heart of the city has become a thriving hub pulsing with life and activity, embraced by an increasing groundswell of new residents, investors, the business sector and visitors and tourists from around the globe.”

An endorsement of the continued success and global appeal of Cape Town is the recent announcement that it has retained its position as the number one destination for business events in Africa on the 2014 International Congress and Convention Association Country and City rankings.

Now, a new artistic landmark on the corner of Long and Dorp Streets is set to celebrate the Western Cape’s diversity. Open House is envisaged as a symbol of democracy and is an open platform for artistic expression and freedom of speech – seen as a creative means of encouraging dialogue and interaction between people from all walks of life.

The winning concept in the Western Cape Government Public Art Competition, the 10.5m tall structure with striking red corrugated iron frames, staircase and balconies was designed by Kimberley-born artist Jacques Coetzer, who drew inspiration from corrugated metal structures, RDP homes and the façades of Long Street’s buildings.

Artist’s impression of Open House, a new art landmark that will be opening in July on the corner of Long and Dorp Streets.

Artist’s impression of Open House, a new art landmark that will be opening in July on the corner of Long and Dorp Streets.

Opening in July, the thought-provoking artwork will be on permanent display and in direct view to engage with traffic and passing pedestrians. And Open House will be exactly that – an open forum for poetry sessions, talks by international dignitaries, theatre productions and annual events. It will encourage dialogue, lively interaction and the trading of ideas, says Rob Kane, chairperson of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID).

“When you want to attract people back into a CBD, one of the first things that needs to be done – after you’ve cleaned up the area and ensured that people are safe – is to provide public spaces in which people want to spend time outdoors. The Central City is doing this very successfully, not only through the public squares that we have with wonderful art installations, but through activations such as First Thursdays and the Saturday City Walk that happens on the third Saturday of every month. This encourages people to live and work in town, and speaks to the true ‘downtown’ lifestyle that you find in the major cities in the world that have a strong residential component.

“Many art installations have existed in the Central City for a number of years, and new ones are continually being installed – such as the late Paul du Toit’s ‘Into Tomorrow’ piece on Riebeek Square. The CCID also welcomes the work of graffiti or street artists and encourages corporates to look at how they can also be part of this beautification of the CBD. I commissioned a work by Faith47 for the foyer of a building I own in Church Street,” says Kane.

Art brings people together, with so many remarkable examples in this key hub, say Pam Golding Properties agents in the central city, Bridget Shiffer, Peter Spencer and Taryn Lewis.

“The towering red ‘Olduvai’ by Gavin Younge at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, Egon Tania’s human-scale bronze sculptures in Pier Place and Ralph Borland’s sharks in the adjacent Jetty Square are just a few. In Thibault Square are the vinyl artwork of Julia Anastasopoulos and John Skotnes’ ‘Mythological Landscape’ sculpture, and St George’s Mall has Brett Murray’s singular Bart Simpson work and the piece of the Berlin Wall.”

PGP says the central city area has become a residential destination catering for a broad range of buyers, with studios priced from R700 000 to R1.1 million, one-bedroom apartments from just under R1m to just over Rm², and two-bedroom units from around R1.2m up to R3m and R4m. The most active market is in the R1m to R2.5m price bracket, although luxury penthouses and other exceptional properties can fetch up to R10m.

“There is strong demand for anything priced below R2.5m,” says Shiffer, “with new listings in the central city often selling within a week. There is an acute shortage of units for sale and stock levels have virtually dried up. This is due to a lack of new developments over the past five to seven years following the market slowdown in 2008, with further pressure on supply resulting from an influx of buyers from Johannesburg and Durban wanting lock-up-and-go apartments either as accommodation for their student children or for use later on.

“Further contributing to the stock shortage, some owners are reluctant to sell their properties as they are enjoying sound capital growth and there is a shortage of stock for them to buy if they do sell their existing properties.”

PGP says the demand for central city living is largely driven by young professionals, numerous retired people looking for convenient lock-up-and-go homes in the heart of Cape Town, as well as a large number of continental buyers who understand and love city living.

“The market for accommodation in the area has also become more affluent as there has been a marked improvement in the urban environment, for example security and community initiatives. Prices that buyers are prepared to pay for apartments have certainly edged upwards in recent years,” says Spencer.

“Underscoring the investment credentials of the central city are some interesting statistics. In 2013 with total sales of R246m in the city centre (across all agencies), the average selling price was R1.43m. This increased to an average price of R1.77m in 2014 against a backdrop of total market sales of R400m, which has further rapidly increased to an average selling price of R1.967m for the period to the end of May, with total market sales of R151m for this five-month period. It is emphasised that these sales have been limited by the shortage of stock, with the surge in pricing illustrating the growing desirability of the central city location.”

Lewis says: “Cape Town’s urban environment has become increasingly attractive, brought about by a range of improved initiatives such as the Bree Street area upgrade and ongoing office conversions to residential property – drawing more affluent city dwellers and creating increased investor confidence.

“Buyers who are attracted to the central city don’t regard this as ‘second best’; instead, they are making a conscious choice taking into account what this vibrant space has to offer, including newer buildings with modern lifts, communal spaces, lobbies and security as well as underground basement parking – not to mention the convenience of living within walking distance of shopping, leisure and entertainment facilities in the surrounds, including the V&A Waterfront.

“And, when comparing old and new blocks, it is usually the amenities on offer that provide the critical differentiator, and not the age of the building. For example, a refurbished art deco block will tend to command a premium if it offers secure basement parking, concierge services, beautifully appointed communal areas and large apartments with high ceilings, whereas a newer block that may lack some of these facilities or amenities, could perhaps result in lesser returns and lower price appreciation.”

 

 

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