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The Niche – paying homage to Stellenbosch’s architectural traits

An artist's impression of the Niche.
An artist's impression of The Niche.

Property Wheel recently caught up with Construct Capital’s Development Director, Bryce O’Donnell to discuss their latest development, The Niche in Stellenbosch which is scheduled for completion this December.

Set in the suburb of Dennesig, The Niche is a short walk to the University of Stellenbosh’s campus and conveniently close to all the major amenities within the CBD.

Although an established single residential node, Dennesig has been earmarked by the municipality as an area for densification in response to the ever-growing demand for student accommodation in Stellenbosch.

Despite this, demand continues to outpace supply due to the constraint of limited availability of land, which often requires rezoning to achieve the increased density needed for student accommodation. With a net result of prices and rentals which are very high relative to student housing in other university towns and campuses, planning also requires sensitivity to the heritage of Stellenbosch and a need to maintain the character of the town, adding further challenges to developing an appropriate design.

The municipality is presently considering numerous potential student housing developments, while encouraging and investing significant funds into pedestrianizing and ensuring that the Dennesig area is cyclist friendly and easily accessible to public transport.

Construct Capital have not done many developments in Stellenbosch. What piqued your interest as development managers?

Construct Capital and IGUAL Project Managers were approached by developers, Chisel, to undertake the residential development on their behalf. While Construct Capital had not previously taken on developments in Stellenbosch, we are active in the residential space across the country.

With the municipality prioritizing Dennesig, and Stellenbosch hosting approximately 30 000 students with 3 000 or so associated staff, we believe that The Niche is an attractive offering to these residents and investors.

Consisting of 51 apartments which comprise of studios, one, two and three-bedroomed apartments, it is extremely competitively priced at approximately 20% below where the current market stands for new and proposed developments. The units are also larger with more parking. We believe it is a better product at an affordable price with no compromises on the finishes, the contemporary design nor the quality. As a result, Chisel has hit the potential market’s sweet spot.

An artist’s impression of The Niche.

The Niche has an interesting layout. What did the design concept pitch entail?

The first element we needed to consider was the design requirement of the Stellenbosch town planning scheme, which serves to inform the overall mastery of the building. The intention of MWP Architects was to create a project that enhanced and added value to the overall urban design of the neighbourhood. This included densification, a good relationship between the building and the street, varied roof lines, common green spaces, clear entrances and permeable boundaries.

The Niche plays homage to the architectural traits seen in this historic town by making modern references to continuous grouped facades, whitewashed walls, and high windows. It is a modern companion to the existing buildings.

What facilities have been included in the building to accommodate young professional and student lifestyles?

Prior to taking on this project we analysed the local market to better understand what investors and end users were looking for. Two things stood out for us: security and good quality internet. We have partnered with CyberSmart, one of the top ISP fibre providers in the country and each unit will include high-speed fibre connectivity (a 100 Mbps uncapped line). We have also prioritised security by providing perimeter CCTV, access control, biometrics, security guards and electric fencing.

In addition, there is ample enclosed parking and the grounds offer a garden, perfect for recreation and quite study sessions.

With the onset of Covid-19, is The Niche on track to deliver in early 2021?

Construct Capital and IGUAL Project Managers have spent considerable time anticipating the potential issues which may delay our project. We have engaged with suppliers and contractors to ensure that the handover is not delayed, and our proactive and dynamic approach has ensured that the long lead items have been delivered. As a result, we are not experiencing any delays with the imported materials and we are confident that we will meet our scheduled completion date.

Does Construct Capital have plans to develop similar projects? What does your development pipeline look like?

Presently, we have a strong development pipeline with some interesting projects launching in Johannesburg, a new retail development and a residential development planned for the Western Cape and a hotel in Nelspruit. We develop multiple projects for our clients ranging from industrial, residential, retail, commercial and hospitality. With offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg, we have a great cross-country footprint.

The Niche’s snapshot:

  • 51 units comprising of bachelor, one, two-and three-bedroomed apartments ranging from 34m2 – 78m2 each with either a garden or a balcony.
  • Units are priced to sell from R1,450,000.
  • Perimeter CCTV, boundary walls, electrified fencing, gates, and security.
  • Bosch kitchen fittings
  • Fully fitted bathrooms
  • Ample parking and a garden.
  • Rentals are priced from R9,000 (including fibre for developer units).
  • Occupation from January 2021.