Ray Mahlaka
3 minute read
14 Jun 2016
12:54 pm

Golf estate kicks Joburg South into gear

Ray Mahlaka

Eye of Africa, a golf estate in Johannesburg South, is rapidly taking shape to push boundaries.

Golf estates have mushroomed with aplomb across SA over the past ten years, tapping into the growing desire by the well-heeled to retreat behind high walls and beefed-up security.

In Johannesburg, cash-flush property developers have largely poured billions into developing golf estates in the leafy northern suburbs. But Johannesburg’s southern node appears to now be getting its share of big-ticket housing estate investments – firmly putting it in SA’s residential big leagues.

A pristine 700-hectare golf estate called Eye of Africa is rapidly taking shape in Eikenhof, sandwiched between Alberton and Grasmere in Johannesburg’s south.

The upmarket development has been ten years in the making and it hasn’t been smooth sailing for the developers in rolling out the area’s only golf estate.

When the Australian-based investment bank Macquarie Group acquired the site for Eye of Africa in 2006, a property boom was already in full swing – making market conditions favourable for property developers to zealously launch residential projects.

Macquarie forged ahead with the golf estate development, launching phase one comprising 166 stands on which buyers could build their own homes. The stands were sold out in a matter of hours, as Kent Gush, who heads sales at Eye of Africa, remembers. “But selling all 166 stands came back to haunt us,” he tells Moneyweb.

White elephant to juggernaut estate

Already the development was kitted with a Greg Norman-designed golf course, but those who were quick to purchase stands didn’t build homes for a prolonged period, making Eye of Africa a white elephant. Despite this blip, more stands were released to the market as part of phase two. This phase was to be the turning point for Eye of Africa, as the 2007/8 global credit crisis struck, resulting in the stands being rapidly sold at hefty discounts. During this period, several golf estates across SA went belly-up in the aftermath of financial market strife.

By 2011, Macquarie was losing money with its golf estate investment and the company ultimately lost interest in it. Gush, who has a property career spanning more than 20 years, successfully convinced Irish property developer David Nagle and three other  silent investors to purchase Eye of Africa.

The syndicate of investors took transfer of Eye of Africa in January 2015 and have since added on to the current phase two. “In the last year we have sold 250 new stands, which is phenomenal for any estate given the difficult economic times that we are in,” says Gush.

Golf estate offering

Construction of about 250 freehold homes is underway at Eye of Africa and there are 1 500 housing opportunities planned for the estate in the long term. Stands range from R890 000 to about R3.5 million – in line with what is offered at surrounding estates Meyersdal Eco Estate in Alberton and Aspen Nature Estate near Glenvista.

The estate will also have three- and- four bedroom freehold cluster homes priced from R2.5 million.

The developers have put money where their mouths are as, to date, about R100 million has been invested in the construction of bulk services such as roads, electricity and sewage; amenities like a restaurant, tennis and basketball courts.

Gush says investments on the golf estate will more than double to R250 million, as more phases are rolled out on a measured basis. “More phases will depend on the uptake of our offering. A phase would typically involve releasing 100 stands at a time,” he adds.

A new road that will link the recently-opened Mall of the South in Aspen Hills to Eye of Africa is planned, reducing the drive to the shopping mall to 3.5 km from the current 15 km. The long-term master plan is to have a retirement village and a R70 million-clubhouse, and a site has also been secured for a boarding school called Eye of Africa College.

“Targets for the completion of the estate are fluid because we are not driven by presales. Also the fact that the development is fully funded means we can complete this golf estate at our own pace,” says Gush.