We recently sat down to chat with Aquacor’s Matthew Quinton to discuss their latest development, StayMelville in Ottery, Cape Town.
StayMelville is a secure lifestyle and community orientated residential estate on just over 28 000 m2 of land in Cape Town’s South Peninsula, developed by Aquacor for their client, Stay Properties. It forms a link, in urban design, between Ottery’s existing residential neighborhood and light industrial area.
How have you differentiated StayMelville from your previous developments and what is typically available in South Africa?
We wanted to offer an appealing environment, both inside the apartments and in the common areas, with levels of services and amenities usually found at much higher price points whilst also being environmentally sustainable and, critically, affordable to middle lower income families.
To achieve this, StayMelville is radically different and required us to rethink all processes from design to construction methodology. It has been an iterative process and what was a key differentiator for StayMelville was finding our funding partners who understood the vision and allowed us the freedom to implement it without us being able to necessarily prove the concept, with so many intangible benefits or previously untried ideas, to them on paper.
As a result, we were able to introduce a lot of green technology like water recycling systems, and other things you cannot see, and increase our spend on items like landscaping and amenities. With the landscaping, we were able to focus on introducing high levels of indigenous planting with a high percentage of plantings being edibles instead of trying to keep costs with-in a budget that was ‘market related’. With regards to the amenities, we focused on usability and provision of services that would improve the quality of life of our residents at a lower cost of living. We have a community centre with an ECD accredited creche, after care facility for older kids, a coffee shop & co-working environment, laundry, gym, and extensive play areas suitable for kids of all ages. This means that parents have peace of mind that their kids are safe and entertained without having to limit their work hours or spend their income on after care.
What has the response been to StayMelville’s green and eco-friendly ethos?
Almost every client that comes to site is in awe at the extent of our green credentials on the project and ask us the same question -“How did we manage to do it?”
What we want the market to be asking is “Why doesn’t everyone do this?” Other developers should be developing this type of project because it is so easy to do. In the long term, the additional capital costs are recovered from lower operating costs and the increased wellness of your clients is just a big bonus. It is more work for the developer, but that’s the only real difference.
StayMelville should not be special. We just did what every other developer should have done, with the knowledge we all have about our impact on the world and the technology we all have access to. I have been quite outspoken in the past about not mentioning ‘green’. It must become ingrained in our thinking. Doing something unusual that results in an improvement in our impact on the environment and people’s lifestyles is what is needed, not just adding so-called green technology to the same old tired project designs.
When I started developing in the noughties, I saw developers getting extremely excited because they were doing ‘green developments’ by using clever materials. I disagreed then and I still do now; what they were describing was common sense and it should be the bare minimum of acceptable human behavior. What irritates me in the market is that people will do a development which is inherently not eco-friendly and then slap a few solar panels on the roof to call it a green estate. As a result, I do not like selling the ‘green concept’, despite beating my green drum.
What made you choose Ottery?
I like to develop in places where the people who buy from me have the same chance as my client at making a good return, a good investment or an improvement in their quality of life.
In Cape Town, I believe there are areas where there is the potential to undo the legacy of this country and that is one of the core things that motivates me in development. These areas are under priced for no good reason other than people’s perceptions of them as being undesirable or not able to deliver a high-quality lifestyle.
Ottery is one of these areas, that by virtue, is undervalued. It has a ‘hangover’ which is not fair. When I shop as a developer, I try to unlearn my Capetonian-isms and South African-isms and I look at it logically. Here is an area that should be nice. Why isn’t it nice? Because of our history. That is the area that you go into.
If I look at a lot of designs for developments targeted at the rising middle class of South Africa, the so-called affordable housing, it merely propagates past prejudices by delivering an unappealing cost engineered product that leaves the people it is being delivered to aspiring to move out of the area to improve their way of life.
Has StayMelville’s tenant and buyer profile been what you had hoped for?
It has been spot on. Cape Town has a very balanced demographic mix and our buyers are a cross section of South Africans and it is beautiful. We have predominantly young starter couples and professionals in their late twenties to thirties – a high percentage of first-time homeowners with a few retirees. We wanted a mix of age groups to create a strong sense of community.
There are quite a few young parents which has given me comfort as this is who we aimed the project at – to make their lives easier and less stressful. Having recently had young kids I know how challenging it is and staying at StayMelville will make life easier for parents and allow for a higher quality of life.
This is a contained space where you can bring your kids up safely. I remember the time when South Africa was safe as a teenager, we are giving our buyers the ability to let their kids experience that again.
Tell us about your up-and-coming projects?
We are working on some high-end luxury projects, but I am also exploring the possibility of a modular rental product for under R2 000 per person per month. It is a challenge, but I want to try to do it. We want to offer ‘pods’ that will give people a sense of independence and pride in where they live and allow many township dwellers to move into the city space and break the poverty cycle.
- 348 two-bedroom two-bathroom apartments, each with a designated parking bay and uncapped internet connection included in levies/rental.
- Rentals from R8,450 per month and available to purchase from R1,199,000.
- State-of-the-art security.
- Numerous sporting facilities including perimeter running track, outdoor gym, basketball courts, pump track, skateboard area and 2 mini-soccer fields.
- A community centre with creche, after care facility, coffee shop, co-working environment, indoor gym, and laundry.
- Permaculture and edible landscaping .
- Water recycling plant.
- Solar hot water.