Retail & Hospitality Property News South Africa

Transforming Bellville with revitalisation of New Boston Centre

With the aim of contributing to revitalising the Bellville CBD, Brönn Properties, under the experienced guidance of Alewyn and Gerdus Brönn, embarked on an ambitious project to refurbish the New Boston Centre, a property with significant potential located at 85 Voortrekker Street. Bellville Cape Town.
Source: Supplied.
Source: Supplied.

The project, which kicked off several years ago, was made possible with financing provided by Trust for Urban Housing Finance (Tuhf) and it breathes new life into the area, showcasing the transformative power of strategic investment and community-centred development.

When Brönn took over Boston Centre, originally known as the Boston Hotel and Dept of Home affairs, it was completely derelict. However, his entrepreneurial spirit, vision for the centre, and the fact that Spar was looking to take on a lease agreement, contributed to his decision to partner with Tuhf and invest in the property.

The partnership with Tuhf has been integral to the success of this project. With funding from Tuhf exceeding R76m, the Boston Centre – a 10-storey building spanning 8,386m² – has been transformed from a distressed asset to once again become a beacon of progress and vibrant feature of Bellville’s urban landscape.

As the first official tenant, the Spar, which spans the ground floor, opened four months ago – and according to Brönn is one of the best-looking Spars in the Western Cape.

Initially, the focus was on rejuvenating the commercial section on the ground floor, totalling 2,528m². This space now consists of a Spar and Tops, creating a vibrant retail space that has grown phenomenally popular among the community for convenience shopping.

Enhanced accessibility and modern living

Ensuring accessibility and convenience entailed developing outdoor parking, with a ramp to further undercover parking spanning the first floor of the building, with 70 parking bays and two new lifts, catering to the needs of both residents and visitors in the area.

Up next, Brönn’s attention turned to the residential component of Boston Centre and meeting the demand for quality and affordable long-term rentals that would meet the need for housing in this metro.

The refurbishment included gutting most of the interior with new engineering services and interior design - from new lifts that now travel to the roof, and new HVAC plant, fire and wet services engineering; all-new electrical and plumbing including a heat pump system to distribute hot water throughout the building, to all-new windows, fire/sound-proof doors, sanitaryware, built-in cupboards, lighting, flooring, fibre for high speed internet, among others.

Every opportunity to improve the usability and liveability of spaces was given careful consideration and today the residential capacity of the refurbished building includes 76 units that embody modern living spaces with top quality finishes on floors two through 10. The makeup of these units includes 11 two-bedroom units (54m² each), 18 bachelor units (26m² each), and 47 one-bedroom units (33m² each).

Source: Supplied.
Source: Supplied.

Looking ahead and pending approval from the City of Cape Town and availability of funds, Brönn also has his sights on developing penthouses on the roof.

Furthermore, once the building has been fully let and the electricity demand/consumption can be measured to determine the business case, Brönn is considering a potential future solar installation on the roof of the building and the external parking bay structures. This will feature a micro grid to build power resilience into the development, along with other potential engineering interventions, that will offset the buildings' power demand and carbon emissions.

Entrepreneur's journey in property

Brönn is a seasoned entrepreneur with a rich history in property development and franchising, where he cut his teeth in business running a restaurant in Secunda in the late 90s. At that stage he had to decide either to buy the building or sell the business. He made the decision to begin a new life in Cape Town where he opened a service station in Belhar and ran it for 15 years. He used the profits to begin investing in further properties.

“I got involved in a block of rental flats in Strand and saw the opportunity in low-income areas and began building up a portfolio of commercial properties. I then had the opportunity to buy the Kensington Shopping Centre, which was run down. I cleaned it up, made it safe, and beautified it. I am passionate about taking something overlooked, restoring it and giving it new purpose,” says Brönn.

The rest is history. There are two other properties under the Brönn portfolio and a longstanding relationship with The Spar Group. Brönn’s son, Gerdus Brönn, plays a crucial role in the day-to-day management of the properties under their care, bringing a fresh perspective and dynamic approach to the business.

“From my side, a special note of thanks must go to my son, Gerdus, for his instrumental role in the success of the New Boston Centre project, as well as to my wife, Marlene, family and friends for advice and emotional support,” adds Brönn.

Brönn further notes that there has already been an influx of enquires and lease applications. “We have Revo Property onboard as our property and rental management company, where the units are currently 50% let - and with the last few units expected to be completed by the end of November/December 2023 all residential units are expected to be 100% let by the end of the year, or January 2024.”

Success in urban regeneration

Matthew McWilliams, chief operating officer of Revo Property comments: “We have been impressed by the efficient pre-letting of the residential component prior to work completion and the high calibre of tenants now residing in the building, which are primarily medical professionals and students. Due to the resounding success of the residential and retail-area components, we are bound to see a further surge in additional investment in this rapidly growing node of Belville.”

Velda Derrocks, regional manager for the Cape region, says: “Boston Centre stands as a testament to what can be achieved through collaboration, strategic investment, and a shared vision for urban regeneration. Tuhf is proud to be part of this transformative journey, marking another milestone in our ongoing commitment to revitalising inner cities across South Africa.

“Ultimately, without Tuhf, none of this would have been possible. They have been great at understanding me as an entrepreneur and as an investor. And this project has been a significant learning curve, but a wonderful experience all at the same time, and I am very proud of what we have built,” concludes Brönn.

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