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Sep 28, 2007
World's largest office-to-housing development under way in JoburgBack
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The world’s largest conversion of office space to apartments is under way in the Johannesburg central business district at 120 End street, and is expected to be complete in early 2009.
This will make available a further 924 residential units for the affordable housing market, and will be a significant boost for regeneration in the Johannesburg inner city.
A 6 000-m2 shopping centre will occupy the ground floor of the 26-storey building, which also has a swimming pool because it was originally built as a hotel. Above the shopping centre level will be a 500-m2 gym, with a 400-m jogging track. A joint-venture (JV) company, consisting of Amdec Property Development, Affordable Housing Company (Afhco), and Chelsea Manhattan, is responsible for the conversion.
The JV brings together an impressive collection of skills, which have significant experience in the rental housing market, and have thought out inventive solutions for many of the problems faced by those in the housing delivery industry, namely lack of skills, soaring costs of building materials, and lack of appropriate space for affordable housing.
To combat the competition for skills and contain the costs of roll-out and delivery of housing, Afhco has established an in-house construction company, Afhco Projects, which has attracted highly skilled people from across the board. Afhco Projects allows the development to be fast-tracked, and in a building that has the capacity to generate about R2,5-million a month in rental, there is significant incentive to finish the project early and start gathering income sooner.
The internal demolition of the building took place earlier this year, and the rebuilding of the walls on all floors in both the high-rise and low-rise portions of the building is complete.
“Considering the shortage of building materials, which is expected to worsen, we have made use of innovative high-quality walling, instead of bricks and mortar, which are difficult to procure at times, cumbersome to move throughout a high-rise building, and represent inefficient use of space on the floor plan,” explains Afhco Projects director Rodney McLoughlin.
The lightweight walling is filled with a cement and vermiculite mix. It has undergone thorough testing and meets all safety standards, and is soundproof and waterproof. Although this type of walling is more expensive, and is often used in upmarket developments, the logistical and time savings serve to counterbalance the overall costs.
“There should be little difference between affluent housing and affordable housing except the size,” says Amdec Gauteng regional director Nicholas Stopforth. “In South Africa there is a huge shortage of quality housing for the low-income market. The provision of housing is the bedrock of a stable society,” he adds.
Number 120 End street will also be fitted out with the latest technology, such as biometric access-control points, only allowing tenants who have been fingerprinted into the building. This is done for security reasons, as well as to ensure that there will be no overcrowding, which could compromise safety.
A 24-m2 bachelor show unit has been completed on the twenty-sixth floor, and displays the resourceful use of space and high- quality robust finish- ings that will be present throughout the apartment block. Although smaller in size than the average low-cost house, which is usually at least 36 m2, the limited space is used in the best way possible.
Not stopping at the building itself, the company is on a mission to improve the surrounding area, and is also entering into a JV with City Parks, with a long-term management agreement over the neighbouring, currently derelict, municipal park. It will upgrade and secure the park for use by the public as well as by residents.
The developer is also in the process of establishing the area as a city improvement district (CID), which means that landlords in the area will contribute funds towards stepping up visible security, as well as employing more cleaners to improve the environment. CIDs have been implemented in areas such as Newtown and Braamfontein, where impressive results have been realised.
“I love this city and am proud to be a part of its regeneration. Our aim is to supply dignified housing solutions that people living in the city can be proud of. “Number 120 End street will increase the amount of housing available in the city, and will be a sparkling example to the rest of the affordable housing industry,” affirms Afhco CEO Wayne Plit.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor
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