At the turn of the century Waterkloof Glen Extension 2 was a typical leafy middle-class Pretoria East suburb with a local veterinarian and a few more than 100, mostly medium-sized, properties. Few people back then could have visualized the suburb emerging as a R10-billion bustling mixed-use development.
Menlyn Maine, the largest project of its kind being undertaken within the greater Pretoria region in Tshwane Municipality, is being developed on the back of this once sleepy suburb and is now a hive of building activity and the headquarters of a growing number of leading South African corporates and businesses.
“From what was once the heart of middle-class suburbia a judiciously designed, groundbreaking 315 000sqm mini-city, which effectively combines office, commercial, residential and entertainment spaces is fast emerging,” points out Retha Schutte, Pam Golding Properties’ regional executive for Pretoria. “Indeed, development within the greater Menlyn region has become so rapid that it is increasingly being referred to as ‘Pretoria’s Sandton’.”
In 2006, however, the Menlyn Maine development project appeared as if it was going to disintegrate before it had even effectively begun. The initiative was becoming particularly mired in the affairs of a number of the individual members of the community, many of whom quite understandably did not wish to sell their homes, or had high expectations of what their properties were worth now that the land been earmarked for development.
In a third attempt to get the multi-billion rand project off the ground, the developers approached Schutte and Pam Golding Properties for assistance with overcoming the stumbling block of bringing together, or, to put it in words of the real estate industry, ‘assembling’, all of the necessary land for a massive project that had been years in the making.
“The developers asked me whether I thought Pam Golding Properties could successfully transact the purchase all of the necessary properties on their behalf,” relates Schutte. “We were deeply impressed by Menlyn Maine initiative, which we believed would have numerous positive implications for the local economy. We were also confident that the Pam Golding Properties brand would add considerable weight to the proposed assembly project and had no hesitation in committing to it”.
“It should be remembered that the City of Tshwane indicated its support for the Menlyn Maine initiative back in 2001, saying that a properly designed office and mixed-use development was much needed within the Tshwane municipal region. It was felt that such a move would assist to decentralize the overburdened infrastructure of the city centre, and particularly areas such as Brooklyn and Hatfield, which were then the home to a number of corporates.”
Pam Golding Properties was given a mandate to undertake the assembly of the land on April 2006 and appointed Thys Greeff, who was highly experienced in this regard, as the lead agent. Greeff has since come a full circle, having re-joined Menlyn Maine Investment Holdings in 2013. He talks with fondness of this time in his career, however, which he says he found both challenging and enormously gratifying.
“Understanding that every property owner had their own highly personal set of circumstances, expectations, hopes and dreams, we decided to adopt a highly personal approach to each individual case,” he relates.
“We consequently met with each of the owners in order to establish exactly what their expectations were, and in order to personally negotiate fair prices with each of them. We knew that it was critical to create a situation that was win-win for all parties, so that the development could get off timeously and in the best possible spirit”.
“We also felt that it was important to communicate directly with the community and developed a newsletter in order to keep residents informed of the latest developments within the suburb and try to assuage any anxieties about the process.”
These approaches proved to be a resounding success and by November 2007 just five property owners in the suburb still remained. By early 2008, within a period of 18 months, Pam Golding Properties had succeeded in purchasing all 108 residential properties in the area on behalf of the developers.
“I think that it helped tremendously that Pam Golding Properties is a trusted real estate brand, and we were able to assure each of the homeowners that we were there to assist them to obtain the best possible values for their homes,” affirms Greeff.
“In some cases, we were also able to connect the property owners to appropriate alternative homes in other nearby Pretoria suburbs through our extensive residential property referral networks. I think that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the residents were able to meaningfully improve their situations in this regard.”
After the completion of the land assembly, the development could proceed, some R100 million having been committed to the installation of the required infrastructure of the project. This included the construction of public and internal roads, civil works and the provision of water and electrical services.
The first building to be completed in Menlyn Maine was the regional head office for Nedbank. This is a 16 500sqm building with a 5-Star Green rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa. Subsequent buildings that have been constructed include a regional head-office for Sage VIP, and a 3 400sqm building with Regus as primary tenant. The development of a 4 200sqm building, with the BMW SAP Competence Hub as primary tenant, was completed in November 2015.
According to Greeff, the developers of Menlyn Maine have partnered with the international Clinton Climate Initiative and the precinct is one of 17 green cities that will be built in various countries. It will be the only such green mixed-use city precinct in Africa.
“The development of Menlyn Maine has been rapid and today we are seeing financial institutions, law firms and a range of other professional service providers, as well as retailers and hoteliers, setting up in the precinct. It will also offer an incomparable shopping, entertainment and lifestyle experience,” points out Schutte.
“Menlyn Maine is uniquely situated to take advantage of the continued development in Tshwane and is already assisting to energise the entire Pretoria East region. It is gratifying to see such an extraordinary project now starting to be realised, and for Pam Golding Properties to have played such a significant role in the birth of the development,” concludes Schutte.