THE WATT CLUB – developing the future for urban rejuvenation in SA

A render of THE WATT CLUB.

70% of South Africa’s population will be urbanised by 2030, with more than 60% urbanised already, according to the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE), which means that more residential opportunities within central locations are needed, especially within price brackets of the average earning South African.

Craig Turner from Urban Lifestyle Investment, developers that specialise in converting under-utilised, existing buildings in city centres across the country into futuristic safe buildings with incredible technology and numerous lifestyle amenities, shares his thoughts on the importance and future of urban rejuvenation in South Africa:

With urban densification taking a front seat in the eThekwini Municipality, these new, inner-city residences have led to a unique take on property ownership that solves a range of challenges faced by South Africans. We have been fortunate enough to be spearheading the conversion of under-utilised, existing commercial buildings into residences that are driven by proximity, convenience, lifestyle, and affordability – having recently completed a 247-unit office-to-residential conversion in Durban’s inner-city”, he says.

Working with award-winning property marketing specialists, Rainmaker Marketing, we conducted extensive market research and found that as a result of the pandemic, consumers’ mindsets had shifted significantly in terms of living and accommodation priorities. Due to Covid-19 fast-tracking the likes of working from home and co-living, consumers saw lifestyle, building amenities, security, and location being key determining factors when choosing where to live. Survey results also indicated that more emphasis is being placed on the quality of people’s living environments which means as developers, it is vital that we create spaces that will appeal to these needs”.

Based on this intel, Urban Lifestyle Investment have purposefully pushed the boundaries with THE WATT CLUB project in Durban in giving new life to an existing 17-storey building while creating a community-focused, shared economy lifestyle with 24-hour hi-tech security, facial recognition access control, a gym, co-working spaces, games rooms, communal lounge areas, and an unrivalled rooftop communal space with 360-degree views of the city – all for an affordable monthly cost. “By creating more appropriate post-Covid-19 buildings with free Wi-Fi and co-working spaces, more communal entertainment areas, we will encourage the city centre as an address of choice”.

All of our buildings that we are working on in cities across the country aim to give individuals a space to thrive within central city locations. Developers and property owners will need to be more competitive in their offering in order to attract purchasers and tenants”.

Taking consumers changing needs into consideration and deliberately implementing solutions that cater to the market, Craig says they also sought to offer competitive pricing, as well as creating options that address the fact that many new homeowners do not have the capital to pay towards a deposit or transfer and bond costs – particularly in the aftermath of the riots and the financial strain of the pandemic.

THE WATT CLUB in Durban Central is Urban Lifestyle Investment’s most recent flagship development project that has made property ownership more accessible to a market that has traditionally struggled to get a foot on the property ladder. According to Rainmaker Marketing’s National Residential Property Trends survey for 2021, the benefits of densifying in urban areas is that it will inevitably mitigate sprawl and lead to lower land use requirements as well as preventing urban decay to occur. The survey also revealed that currently, a large number of rural residents commute to their decentralised and suburban places of work in well located areas, but at high travel costs.

The development is injecting new life into the inner-city with energy and innovative spaces along with easy access to local amenities. It unequivocally sets the standard of what large scale inner-city rejuvenation can become. “With our new Rent-2-Own product, we are proud to present a solution that gives individuals the ability to increase a property portfolio without upfront capital, and without extending debt exposure with banks. By creating solutions for property ownership and wealth creation, rather than driving the long-standing rental market demand, we will create a greater sense of ownership and pride by city dwellers, which will translate to better run and maintained city buildings. There really is no comparison in the market to date. There is no one doing what we are doing at scale in the inner-city realm”, says Craig.

“It goes without saying that the rejuvenation of these buildings is, in turn, pulling up the buildings surrounding them. Other developments breaking the boundaries in urban rejuvenation are the likes of the old Garlicks Building in Durban Central and ‘Society on Church Square’ in Pretoria Central. What we are doing is setting a precedent for inner city living. This is just the beginning of what Urban Lifestyle Investment has in the pipeline and sets the benchmark for how South Africans will be able to live and invest going forward“, he concludes.