The much anticipated construction of the Zonk’-Izizwe mixed-use development could start in the third quarter of next year, says Old Mutual Investment Group Property Investment business development executive Brent Wiltshire.

He hopes to have all the necessary infrastructure approvals in place by the end of this year.

The R15-billion to R20-billion Midrand development will include a town centre, as well as residential, hospitality, office and retail property. It will be constructed in phases spanning several years.

Grand Central Airport is adjacent to the 220-ha site.

“The development will require substantial road upgrades within Midrand,” says Wiltshire.

Old Mutual bought the land in 1987 already, casting the die on the future prosperity of the then largely vacant area between Johannesburg and Tshwane.

Over the years, this foresight proved true, as Johannesburg and Tshwane started to grow towards each other – into the empty land that once separated them – on the back of an expanding economy and an increasing population.

While retaining a rural character on its outskirts, Midrand has now established itself as a residen- tial and business development node.

It has become the home of the Pan African Parliament, and of educational facilities such as the University of South Africa Business School and Midrand University.

It has also attracted commercial and light industrial developments along a corridor flanking the Ben Schoeman highway.

“Zonk’Izizwe represents a new era in urban development in South Africa,” says Wiltshire.

“It will offer South Africans an opportunity to live, work and play in an environment close to public transport routes, and with a direct connection to an international airport (OR Tambo) as well as access to a regional airport (Grand Central).”

Wiltshire says Zonk’Izizwe should prove even more attractive with the integration of the Gautrain Midrand station into the development.

The Midrand station was ini-tially planned as a standalone underground station, but following negotiations between Old Mutual and the Gautrain project team, the station will now be above ground, merging with the Zonk’Izizwe development.

The Gautrain rapid-rail system will link Tshwane, Johannesburg and OR Tambo International Airport by 2011.

Zonk’Izizwe is the kind of mixed-use development the Gautrain project aims to encour- age near its stations, notes Wilt-shire.

Part of the strategy of the Gau-train development is to ensure densification within a certain radius of each station, arresting the urban spread that have made service delivery difficult for local govern- ment, and which has increased congestion owing to longer travelling times.

While adding to the densification of the area itself, Zonk’Izizwe is also set to benefit from any densification around its own borders, as people are bound to be attracted to the convenience of living near the rapid-rail link, notes Wiltshire.

For example, the Midrand station development framework proposes that a large high-density residential area be developed on the land that is not part of Zonk‘Izizwe.

This area should include all the community facilities and open space requirements to serve 4 000 residential units.

Ideally, these people could shop and work within the Zonk’Izizwe development, says Wiltshire.

Ultimately, Zonk’Izizwe will be a greenfield development in an underdeveloped area – which will not remain so for long.

“Specific aims for the Gautrain Midrand station and its surrounds include consolidation of the Midrand business district and infill between the business district and the station; the introduction of high-density residential areas, complemented by the mixed-use Zonk‘Izizwe development surrounding the station area; and the creation of pedestrian and vehicular links to ensure integration,” says Wiltshire.

“In short, the rail service is expected to be a catalyst for develop- ment of the large vacant areas east of the intercity highway, which includes ambitious projects such as Zonk‘Izizwe.”