Community reactions to the proposed MyCiti BRT route in Wynberg have ranged from enthusiastic to extremely unhappy. Despite this, few would argue that the suburb’s congested centre and transport hub aren’t long overdue for an upgrade. These issues are often credited by property experts as the single largest factor preventing Wynberg real estate from reaching its full potential, and by addressing them, the BRT route could, in fact, trigger a much-needed renaissance in the area.
“Wynberg has a very interesting property dynamic at the moment,” says Leon Breytenbach, National Manager of the Rawson Property Group’s commercial division. “Ordinarily, there is a synergy between retail, office space, and residential properties in an area, and when one sector starts thriving, the others tend to follow suit. In Wynberg’s case, however, the residential market has generally been doing well, but the commercial sector has yet to see much appreciable improvement.”
According to Breytenbach, there are several reasons behind this delay, many of which can be tied back to the overworked local transport network. If these issues were alleviated, however, it could kick-start the commercial market into long-awaited action.
“The general deterioration surrounding Wynberg’s commercial district and the existing public transport depot has always been a huge hurdle,” he says, “and not just because of the unfortunate crime that it brings. The environment affects the tenant mix, which is predominantly secondary retail and low-cost fast food at present. These aren’t the most stable or profitable tenants to have, and don’t really encourage property development or new commercial investors.”
If the transport hub and its immediate surrounds were upgraded, however, Breytenbach believes it would go a long way towards improving the tenant mix and attracting new investment.
“The cleaner and less chaotic environment would make it far easier for the Wynberg CID to continue to reduce crime, and the whole area would become more attractive to a broader variety of tenants,” he says. “While we’re unlikely to see primary or high-end retail moving directly into the area surrounding the transport hub, I do think there would be a marked improvement in overall tenant quality and variety – there are plenty of businesses that could benefit from the high volumes of foot traffic.”
According to Jason Gregoriades, a member of the Rawson Property Group’s commercial business development team, an improvement in the tenant mix would also be likely to increase demand for office space in Wynberg’s CBD.
“Office space in Wynberg is remarkably affordable given the suburb’s central location, and there is increasing overflow from Claremont’s CBD as prices there continue to rise,” he explains. “If Wynberg’s transport and congestion situations were improved, and the tenant mix appeared more prosperous, I think a lot more businesses would be looking for offices in the area.”
Like many trends, however, this one could use a major frontrunner to lead the way for the rest of the crowd.
“When Home Choice made the decision to base themselves in Wynberg’s CBD, it definitely made an impact on public perception of the area, but they haven’t been quite enough to make Wynberg’s commercial space trendy on their own,” says Gregoriades. “If another big player relocated to Wynberg – which is very likely with the improved transport network and general upgrades that are planned – their combined influence could have a dramatic effect on demand.”
In addition to triggering a resurgence in the popularity of Wynberg’s commercial property, a large business could also reinvigorate the CBD’s residential rental market thanks to staff demand. This would encourage the restoration of properties along Main Road that are currently suffering from disinterest, which would, in turn, create more commercial opportunities catering to tenants and encourage more people to move in as a result.
The likelihood of this regenerative cycle hasn’t escaped local property owners’ notice, however, and Gregoriades reports numerous sellers already overpricing their properties based on future speculation.
“This really isn’t productive at this stage,” says Gregoriades, “as buyers simply aren’t willing to pay those kinds of prices now. The best option for existing owners is to hold onto those properties if possible, and sell when the inevitable market resurgence becomes a reality. For speculators with deep pockets, however, snapping up a bargain now could be well worth your while – property prices and rentals are likely to soar in Wynberg over the next decade.”
The Wynberg MyCiti bus link will transport commuters from Khayelitsha to Wynberg along a 35km route. It forms part of Phase 2A of the MyCiTi development strategy, which is forecast to be operational by 2020.