When the Jacaranda trees are flushed purple the Pietermaritzburg suburb of Scottsville is at its most beautiful. But with idealistic students in town almost all year round, it’s a pretty place even when the trees aren’t in flower.
The historic area, which is intersected by Alan Paton Avenue, is a buzz of activity. Eager youngsters, books tucked under arm, can be seen emerging from granny cottages, digs’ and rooms they rent striding to lectures. When they aren’t at lectures they’re involved in sport or socializing.
This activity generates a hustle and bustle as shop keepers, laundromats, restaurants, book sellers and the like jump in on the action.
As suburbs go Scottsville has it all. It is dominated by the University of KZN campus and within walking distance there are a number of mini-malls, numerous schools and fantastic recreational facilities like the racecourse and multi-million Rand Golden Horse Casino and entertainment complex.
Oribi, Pietermaritzburg’s airport, is five kilometres away. The Msunduzi River is the same distance, as is the big, swish Liberty Midlands Mall across the N3.
The university has spawned a range of activities. But there are almost a dozen prestigious schools in Scottsville doing their bit to make it busy. These include St Anne’s, St Charles, Epworth and Pietermaritzburg College and all of them host sports days, cake sales, drama evenings and more, which adds to the hum of activity in Scottsville.
Lauren Eysen is a chemistry student at the university. She works part-time at The Gables, a bed-and-breakfast establishment with bar and restaurant in Scottsville. She has lived in the suburb for almost three years.
“I love it. It’s idyllic and the perfect place to raise kids. Scottsville has a family feel to it. Everything is convenient and within walking distance. There’s the Checkers Centre on the varsity side and the casino and the rugby stadium on the Gables’ side.
“The university is a big feature of life in Scottsville. There are always people around. Some days I go jogging at around 5pm and it feels completely safe.
“People are out gardening, watering the lawn, chatting over the fence. It feels relaxed and neighbourly,” Eysen says.
Tracy Jacklin runs a rental database which is popular with students looking for accommodation in Scottsville. Her www.compu-homes.co.za includes about 600 properties and can be accessed for three months for a fee of R195.
Jacklin say Scottsville is popular among students because of the university. It has also boomed, she says, because since Pietermaritzburg was declared the capital of KwaZulu-Natal, many civil servants have sought homes in the leafy suburb.
She says you can rent a room for R800 a month, a cost which rises to R2000 for a spot in a fancy digs. Granny cottages and flats, depending on their condition and proximity to varsity, go for upwards of R1500 a month.
“Scottsville has a vibe because of the younger crowd. It’s also safer than most places and you don’t see big barbed wire fences. It’s an open and neighbourly suburb,” Jacklin says.
To outsiders, properties appear dirt cheap. A three-bedroom, four-bathroom house with a pool is being marketed on the Internet for R1,550,000 in Pelham, while a three-bedroom house in Patrick Road is on sale for R1,050,000. Apartments and duplexes are selling for between R350 000 and R450 000.