What was once three apartment blocks, managed through a family-owned trust in downtown Bloemfontein, is planned to become innovative shared accommodation to cater for up to three hundred residents to help meet the increasing demand for cost-effective, secure, and multi-purpose living in one of South Africa’s rapidly growing student towns.
Five years ago, Dimatone PTY Ltd purchased a house in Bloemfontein close to the university and Ruben Moggee and Theuns Myburgh converted the building into student accommodation.
“We began looking for other opportunities to develop more properties specifically focused on shared rooming and student accommodation” says Moggee, a director in the company. “This is one of the key industries in Bloemfontein, and by 2020 we had already purchased and converted five properties catering for fifty students”.
However, the duo wanted to take on a larger accommodation project and when they came across three apartment blocks for sale, they recognised the opportunity to further their ambitions. The three apartment blocks had been with the same owners for thirty years with some tenants living there for the past two decades.
“While the apartment blocks presented us with an incredible opportunity, we felt it was too large a transaction to bite off on our own. Using our existing properties as collateral, we partnered with TUHF for assistance. In such a short space of time, and despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are aiming to launch the accommodation imminently” says Moggee.
The three apartment blocks are next to one another and situated next to the renovated SARS offices. With joined off-street parking access behind the buildings, the site offers the perfect location to echo the revamping process currently under way.
“Existing shared- rooming, student accommodation and new builds are extremely small. These apartment blocks feature large rooms that can be utilised to create a nice atmosphere for young professionals as well as students,” says Moggee. “As part of the product, the apartments are offered as furnished and comply with specifications received from the tertiary institutions, each apartment has to feature breakout and recreational areas and provide a unique onsite living experience. This fits the mixed-use zoning and character of the blocks perfectly as minimal to no configuration changes are required.”
To this end, Dimatone examined how best to optimise the seventy-eight apartments to reflect modern furnishes and shared living that fits the commercial tenants on the ground floor. The bulk of the project has consisted of internal renovations and fit outs, ripping out the old carpets and restoring the original parkay flooring to its former glory.
As part of the renovation process, each apartment will be fully furnished, including a fridge, microwave, stove, beds, desks for studying purposes, and even storage spaces for books. There will also be uncapped Wi-Fi throughout the buildings, so tenants would just need to bring their bedding and clothes and move in.
“There will be a combination of bachelor or one-bedroom flats, two- and three-bedroom apartments. We are also in the process of establishing several recreational areas for residents that will feature televisions, a pool table and table tennis, as well as an outside braai area. The blocks will also have a common laundry area for tenants to do their washing and drying. Of course, security is critically important to give tenants peace of mind. As such, we have introduced physical access gates, cameras throughout the buildings, and will be installing biometric scanners for access control prior to opening,” adds Moggee.
The existing tenants were given preference to stay, where some have chosen to remain and embrace multi-purpose living, while those who wanted to find alternative housing were given as much time as they needed to move out during last year.
“Our existing team of managers will oversee the rental aspect of the accommodation while we focus on the renovations. We also have a close working relationship with NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) so that we know exactly how to structure our agreements to benefit students from a rates perspective,” says Moggee.
He says that they want to create an atmosphere where tenants will feel comfortable. “It really needs to be a home away from home” he feels.
“Our relationship with TUHF is not a traditional, transactional one. Instead, it is a true partnership where they have been supportive and understanding of the challenges posed by the pandemic. This will definitely not be our last project with them,” he concludes.