Just below the Kingsway Campus of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) lies the Westdene Dam. Those with long memories will always remember it for a school bus disaster that happened in 1985, but today it is an island of tranquility amongst the hustle and bustle of suburban life. Westdene lies to the west of the trendy suburb of Melville and as such benefits from many of the amenities that have made Melville so popular, including the buzzing nightlife and great restaurants.This has provided residents with the kind of access to facilities that has made Melville so popular, but without the higher prices that a popular suburb such as Melville demands.Lower priced properties in Westdene have also affected the mix of people living in the suburb with it being a popular suburb among academics as well as students and people working for non-profit organisations. The other side of living in Westdene is access to shopping facilities that service suburbs such as Sophiatown, which tend to be cheaper than those in the, more upmarket Melville.Westdene is split down the middle by Thornton Ave with the eastern (closer to Melville) side of the suburb considered the better part of the area. There are areas west of Thornton that are close to the dam but once you get close to Main Road (the extension of Ontdekkers Road) property quality and prices tend to drop.According to one resident crime in the area tends to come and go in waves, but on the whole it is not an area where you would park your car in the street at night. The proximity of Melville Koppies also makes for a more tranquil, isolated feel to some areas of the suburb.Most of the stock in Westdene is freehold properties with less than 20% made up of sectional title properties. Determining the exact demographic makeup of the suburb is more difficult as the proximity to UJ lends itself to houses being rented out for student accommodation. Demographics of the homeowners tends towards the older end of the spectrum with around 40% of the owners falling into the older than 50 year bracket.During the period from 2004 to 2008 house prices roughly doubled as they escalated from R484 00 to R965 000. Over the last two years, however, prices have retreated slightly with the average selling price at R859 000 in 2010.The number of houses coming to the market has also slowly declined over the years from 241 units in 2004 to 86 units last year.From an education perspective Westdene isn’t particularly well endowed, there are Afrikaans schools such as Hoerskool Vorentoe in the area but better quality English schools are a bit of a drive away. Macauly House Catholic School and the German School in Milpark are reasonably close but anyone applying to government schools will find themselves on the B-list.
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