Umhlanga: Commercial Development Fuels Residential Demand

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

The once sleepy seaside village of Umhlanga has been transformed by a wealth of residential and commercial development. Umhlanga on the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal may have had humble beginnings, but there is little evidence of that today and the town has become the place to see and the place to be seen.Founded in 1895 by Sir Marshall Campbell, the first hotel was built in the area in 1920. It was the start of a love affair. Drawn by the beautiful beaches and temperate climate, the village became a popular choice for holidaymakers and the tourism industry quickly became the driving force behind the village’s success. It is likely that this would have continued, had it not been for the decay of Durban’s city centre. In a move reminiscent of that of Sandton in Gauteng, businesses took to the hills, albeit ones that grew sugar cane, and the area that came to be known as Umhlanga Ridge blossomed. Formerly owned by the Tongaat Hulett Group, the area now houses a large commercial community, boasting some of the biggest names in business. The Ridge also houses the Gateway Theatre of Shopping, the largest shopping centre in Africa. Development around the centre has literally exploded in recent times, becoming the commercial hub of the Durban region. As one of the most desirable places in live in the Durban area, the prices of residential property in Umhlanga have increased enormously over the years. The proximity of commercial opportunities has fuelled demand and the area’s landscape seems to change virtually on a daily basis as more houses and developments are built to cater for demand. The nearby Mount Edgecombe estate, in particular, has proved to be an extremely popular choice. Situated on one of Durban’s finest golf courses, the large development now dominates the landscape with a sea of green roofs. Split into two sections, the older section known as Umhlanga Rocks has retained much of its small village charm. Large luxury hotels, shops, restaurants as well as upmarket entertainment venues dot the area. Although it may no longer be regarded as a sleepy seaside village, this once small hamlet does quieten down a little out of season. During the busy months however, the town literally comes alive, catering for the wants and needs of those descending to the area.Although the downturn has affected sales in the area, Umhlanga appears to be brushing off the effects of the recession. Recently-released statistics from Lightstone reveal that has been a total of 229 sales concluded in the area over the past 12 months. Of these 162 these were sectional title sales. The average price of a unit in Umhlanga is R2 502m, while the average price of a freehold property is R3 364m. The figures show that 75 of the 229 properties sold for more than 3m. The banks have come to the party and have approved an astounding R375m worth of bond finance in the area.Boasting some of the most expensive real estate in the country, the statistics reflect the growing trend to become part of the action. The construction of the King Shaka Airport just to the north of the town has added to the buzz and the general consensus seems to indicate that the growth isn’t about to stop anytime soon.

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