Property developments worth billions planned around stations.

The R22-billion Gautrain, linking Johannesburg, Pretoria and OR Tambo airport has been much maligned, but it has sparked a massive commercial property boom around its stations.

A spokesman for the Gautrain project said that while property prices had declined in other parts of the country, those around the Gautrain route are experiencing boom times in both development and pricing.

A recent Gautrain newsletter says the project is not only expected to influence commuting habits, but also where people live and play.

“Gautrain is a catalyst for a new form of urban development, where existing suburbs are changing into high-density, economic cores while residents and business are returning to rejuvenated inner cities,” the newsletter says.

The estimated population of Gauteng is expected to increase to 14.6million by 2015 and it is essential that “economic mobility” be ensured and that urban sprawl avoided by making service delivery more efficient and controlling traffic congestion, the newsletter adds.

Jenny Alexander, district manager of the Lower Rosebank Management District of the Kagiso Urban Management, said the Rosebank node was experiencing an unprecedented construction boom.

The R250-million refurbishment of the Rosebank Hotel included an expansion to 318 rooms, while the Firs shopping centre and Park Hyatt have been completed or are under construction at a cost of R500-million.

The construction of two more hotels is also being considered.

The Zone shopping complex has been earmarked for a two-phase development with the demolition of Admirals Court, Rosebank Boulevard, Oxford Corner, Knightsbridge and the former Fournos Bakery building.

Alexander said the demolitions would follow a R20.6-million refurbishment of the Zone@Rosebank.

The second phase of the Zone development — at R623-million — will include a 160-room hotel, four- level parking garage and offices.

Adrie Fourie, of Kagiso Urban Management, which manages Rosebank, said property owners are making investments of more than R1-billion.

About 18 projects in Sandton are being constructed or revamped, including hotels, commercial, mixed- use and residential developments.

One of the major projects is the Sandton Eye complex . Quantum Property Group plans to invest R75- million for a 25% stake in the Sandton Eye development, which it believes will benefit from being close to the Sandton Gautrain station.

The project consists of 5000m² of retail space, 20000m² of offices, a 200- room, five-star Radisson Blu hotel and 12 luxury penthouse suites. When completed, the project will be worth an estimated R1.4-billion.

Quantam chairman Chaim Cohen said: “ Sandton Eye is ideally positioned to capitalise on affluent local residents and business people, Gautrain and bus commuters and tourists. Sandton represents one of the highest socioeconomic profiles in the country, with mainly LSM 10- plus residents and is the second- largest office node in South Africa.

“Our patronage will be further boosted by the bus rapid transit system (BRT), the main station being situated at the entrance to Sandton Eye,” he said.

But, said Fourie, a full investigation of infrastructure should be undertaken to determine the suitability of existing services infrastructure, ranging from electricity supply to sewerage and stormwater.

“Many property owners in the node have started making their own adjustments to behaviour to save electricity, but there is a great need for improved services to support the developments taking place and planned in the area,” Fourie said.