Revamp for SA’s tallest residential block

6 January 2012

Renovation of Ponte, Johannesburg’s highest residential block – and once its most infamous – is under way, now that the entire inner city area, from Ellis Park to the Hillbrow Tower, has undergone a remake.

Under the control of long-time building owner the Kempston Group, it is hoped that the building will be restored to its former glory.

“The building offers a very unique lifestyle in that it was one of the pioneering mixed use projects and offers great security options for inner city living,” says Kempston Group spokesman Jason Kruger.

Unusual design

Built in 1975, Ponte gained acclaim for its unusual design as a hollow cylinder. Standing at 173 metres, it is Johannesburg’s second-highest building, after the Carlton Centre, and South Africa’s tallest residential skyscraper. The 222-metre Carlton is an office and retail building.

It has always been a furnished rental block, and boasts 470 flats. Renowned for its views of the city, it was hot property until the late 1980s when it fell into decay after drug lords and criminals took occupation.

It remained the black sheep of the skyline until 2001, when a newly installed security system made it a safer place to be.

First redevelopment attempt

However, it was no longer the sought-after location that it had originally been. This led to the birth of a redevelopment project headed by property company Investagain, under the leadership of David Selvan and Nour Addine Ayyoub, in May 2007. The two had big plans for the building, including decorating it to include different lifestyle categories.

These fell into three decor categories: Zen-Like, Moroccan Delight and Old Money. Plasma-screen TVs and granite table tops completed the look in each of the flats. Interest in the development was high, and the building seemed set to become prime real estate, complete with a retail floor.

However, the project failed; it came crashing down in 2008. Negotiations over ownership of the building followed, but the Kempston Group retained possession of Ponte.

“We considered various alternatives at the time, but due to the proposed upgrade of the area for the World Cup, among other reasons, the directors decided to invest in refurbishing the building,” Kruger says.

Refurbishment 95% complete

“Currently the plan is to complete the refurbishment work and restore the tenant base. Our target market will be middle-income tenants such as nurses, police officers, inner city government officials and those working in the mining and banking houses still operating out of the CBD.”

Work on the building is progressing nicely, and the renovation of the residential units is largely finished, according to Kruger. This leaves the retail area.

“The commercial area will initially be restored to its basic potential, and then we will probably tailor the balance to the requirements of the commercial tenants,” he says.

An exciting development in the revamp is the installation of eight high-speed lifts, replacing the current lifts.

Kruger says that, overall, the residential work is approximately 95 percent complete, while the commercial work is expected to be complete between April and June 2012.

Inner city rejuvenation

Improvements to the area, including the Ellis Park Precinct, Hillbrow and Berea, by the Johannesburg Development Agency, have all contributed to making the neighbourhood a more desirable place to stay.

“We are also pleased to see the resurgence of the Golden Lions [rugby team] and, with that, it has once more attracted many Joburgers to the area, all of which is assisting in improving the perception of the area,’ he says.

Further adding to the area’s rejuvenated appeal is the presence of the Rea Vaya bus rapid transit (BRT) system, which offers affordable and reliable transport to people living in both the building and the area.

Ponte, now known as Ponte City, therefore has a variety of selling points with which to attract people and revive it to its original allure.

There is one in particular that you just will not find the same of elsewhere, though, says Kruger: “It has some of the best views on offer in Joburg, especially at night.”

Source: City of Johannesburg