Initially developed in the early 1900s to accommodate people working on the East Rand coal and gold mines, the towns of Boksburg, Benoni and Brakpan are now much more diversified centres housing a range of commercial and industrial enterprises as well as shops, schools, medical facilities, sports clubs and entertainment venues.
And as a group of suburbs to the south of OR Tambo International airport, they can expect further growth and development as part of the new city or “aerotropolis” that is now steadily taking shape around the airport.
The vision for this new city was outlined in 2010 by the Airports Company of SA (ACSA), and based on the work of Prof John D Kasarda of the University of North Carolina, who coined the term “aerotropolis” a decade ago to describe a new urban form anchored by a city airport that has evolved into a major employment, shopping, trading, business meeting, entertainment and leisure destination in its own right.
Such hubs are now in fact evolving all over the world and, speaking at a recent estate agents’ conference in New Orleans, Prof Kasarda noted that major airports that had once been viewed primarily as “gateways” were increasingly also proving to be “engines” of economic growth in areas up to 30km away.
“Increasingly, large airports are attracting all sorts of aviation linked-businesses to their immediate surroundings, including time-sensitive manufacturing and distribution firms; hotel, entertainment, retail, convention, trade and exhibition complexes; and office buildings that house air-travel intensive business executives and professionals.”
“This in turn gives rise to higher demand for residential property in nearby suburbs to accommodate the employees of all these companies who want to live close to work – and of course also to higher demand for all sorts of health, education, food, transport, retail and recreation services, with a concomitant further increase in employment and in these areas.”
As it is, says Rawson Property Group franchisee for Boksburg N12 and Benoni East, Jackie de Vries, these areas already derive many benefits from their proximity to the international airport. These include strong support for a large number of tourism-related businesses and attractions like hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses, specialist retail outlets, two casinos, international-standard conference venues, highly-rated golf courses and wildlife parks.
“In addition, they are extremely popular with first-time homebuyers at the moment because they offer a great combination of accessibility and affordability. And at the same time they are able to offer the top executives of East Rand companies the opportunity to live in luxury gated estates without having to face a long commute to the northern suburbs of Johannesburg.”
His fellow-franchisee Pieter de Vries, of the Rawson Property Group’s Boksburg N17 and Germiston franchises, notes that Boksburg is the home of major industrial companies such as Macsteel, Fraser Alexander and EL Bateman, as well as consumer goods producers such as Unilever, Colgate Palmolive and Tiger Brands, and says it has recently experienced significant amount of new housing development to meet the rising demand from the employees of these companies.
“As a result, we are now able to offer prospective buyers a very wide choice of one and two bedroom sectional title apartments and townhouses in modern secure complexes at very reasonable prices, starting at around R400 000 and ranging up to around R750 000. This affordability, combined with Boksburg’s convenient location in terms of transport links to other parts of Gauteng, is also attracting many buyers from elsewhere.”
There are also three bedroom, two bathroom family homes available in Boksburg at prices from around R850 000, and families are very well served here in terms of schools, shopping malls and sports facilities.
Schools include Boksburg High, CBC Boksburg, Hoërskool Voortrekker, Hoërskool Oosterlig and Sunward Park High, and the East Rand Mall, which lies on the Boksburg/Benoni boundary, offers a huge variety of shops and restaurants as well as a cinema complex.
Residents can also visit a fresh food market once a week and a crafters’ market once a month, while Boksburg Lake, which is surrounded by attractive lawns, trees and terraces, also offers boating, fishing and watersports facilities, and the ERPM course is a favourite among keen golfers.
At the top end of the market, the prices of modern three bedroom cluster homes start at just under R2 million, and those for four bedroom clusters in security estates at just under R3 million.
Meanwhile in Benoni, says Rawson Property Group’s Benoni West franchisee Michael Joubert, the entry-level for two bedroom sectional title homes is currently around R430 000, and that for the brand new, three bedroom family homes being built in Modderbee around R490 000.
Prices for older suburban homes start at around R750 000 and range all the way up to R3 million, and there are also numerous smallholdings for sale at prices from around R2,4 million, depending on the house size, land size and existence of any other improvements such as stables.
There are numerous schools in Benoni including the Arbor, Crystal Park, Farrarmere, Rynfield and St Columba’s primary schools, Benoni and Willowmoore high schools and Ashton International College.
Known for the string of lakes at its centre, the town also offers a range of sporting facilities at the Benoni Country Club and Benoni Lake Golf Club, and upmarket shops and restaurants at the Lakeside Mall, with the landmark “paddle steamer” building at its centre.
In Brakpan, which is already a sought-after distribution location, housing many warehousing and logistics companies, prices start at around R600 000 for a three bedroom home in a traditional suburb, and range up to around R1,6 million in more upmarket areas, says Rawson Property Group franchisee Belinda Prinsloo.
Schools in the area include Brakpan High, Hoërskool Stoffberg and the Dalpark private school as well as a Curro school in the new Helderwyk Estate opposite the Carnival City Casino and Entertainment Centre.