Wierda Valley undergoing a commercial overhaul

Private Property South Africa

The established, up-market suburb of Wierda Valley in Sandton is becoming increasingly commercialised.

That’s the news from Pam Golding’s Andrew Birbeck who says that Wierda Valley is slowly but surely evolving from a stately residential suburb into a fully-fledged corporate and retail node. Birbeck attributes the trend to the suburb’s proximity to Rivonia and the Sandton CBD and the fact that it is intersected by Sandton Drive which becomes Rivonia Road-arguably one of Johannesburg’s highest profile commercial routes.

“Wierda Valley was once a far-flung, diminutive country node characterised by large luxurious homes and rolling plots,” notes Birbeck. “Over the years the surrounding areas have exploded into busy, high density commercial and retail sectors. This has effectively turned Wierda Valley into a residential island amidst a sea of office blocks, hotels and shops. Given the orientation of the surrounding development and associated infrastructural upgrades, it was only a matter of time before local residents spotted the gap and marketed their properties to developers.”

And sell they have! According to Birbeck, many of the grand old homes of the neighbourhood have given way to high-end office blocks and shops and smaller, contemporary homes aimed at young executives. Much of the land has been re-zoned for commercial use and in some instances owners have joined forces to offer adjoining plots, increasing the development potential for larger, high density projects.

Further catalysing the trend is the fact that Wierda Valley is home to a “mature, well established market” says Birbeck , a remark which is underpinned by the latest Lightstone report on the area which cites 50% of Wierda Valley’s ‘stable’ residents as being aged between 36 and 49. Approximately 30% are aged between 50 and 64 and the remaining 20% fall into the pensioner bracket. Approximately 36% of owners have lived in the area for over 11 years.

The fact that Wierda Valley’s residents are of the more mature persuasion is also contributing to the changing face of the suburb. “Many of Wierda Valley’s residents are at a turning point in their lives in that they have raised their families and no longer require a large, high maintenance property. Selling and downscaling is simply the next step in the evolutionary property cycle of many of these owners.”

However, although stock is plentiful and owners are keen to sell, the Lightstone report says the last sale in the area actually occurred in 2009. The property in question sold for just over R3m. According to the same report, Wierda Valley properties are currently valued at approximately R5, 4m.

So why the lag? Birbeck explains that the global economic crisis has taken its toll on developers. He adds that many are already strapped with land parcels that they cannot develop or sell which has significantly reduced their risk appetite for additional purchases. The fact that there is some concern regarding over-development of Sandton and the surrounding areas is further exacerbating this scenario.

“But the market won’t stay flat forever. Wierda Valley is just too well positioned and serviced to be ignored and demand for land in the area will inevitably improve as soon as the property market and economy recovers.”

Indeed, he says, Lightstone’s numbers will have to be updated given that he has just sold a small property in the Valley for R2,6m. Perhaps it’s a sign of better times to come.

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