Tuesday, 11 June 2013

09.06.2013 Market on Main and Maboneng property

This Sunday we headed down to Maboneng's Sunday market, Market on Main to shop, eat, drink and look into the properties on offer in this growing inner-city gentrification project.

Somewhat similar to the Sunday pop-up markets in London's Brick Lane, Market on Main is largely focused on selling fresh food made from local products cooked right in front of you. Stalls sell all kinds of tasty things such as Thai noodles, dim sum, Ethiopian platters, gourmet burgers, sizzling paella, Durban style curries and barbequed pork ribs. On the drinks side there's homemade lemonade, mojitos, craft beers (that's South African for real ale/microbrewery), good strong Ethiopian coffee and, as we are now in South African winter, hot toddys and mulled wine. The food hall is constantly jam packed with fashionable foodies grabbing lunch at the communal tables and is hectic, but in a festive way.

On the upper floor of the former warehouse is a smaller market selling vintage clothes, funky furniture, handmade jewellery, artworks and some beautiful African fabric inspired shoes and handbags. The selection is small, but enticing. Back down in the warehouse's courtyard entrance you can also find little studios with art exhibition spaces and galleries, which form both the creative and commercial spaces of the artists who live here.

During our exploration of these little studios surrounding the market we came across the Smack! Republic Brewery (do they know that 'smack' is slang for heroin in the UK...?!). Smack! is two months old and run by two young craft beer lovers who had the dream of creating Joburg's first inner-city microbrewery. Their brewing space was most definitely micro - I think even my local pub in England has a bigger production - but we could not fault the beer. This was absolutely delicious, seriously some of the best I have drank in a long time. I can't wait to find it in some bars around town. And check out the bottles, very cool.

At Smack!'s terrace, fancy loft conversion in the background
Bargain Maboneng property

As we sat up on Smack!'s balcony with our pints of Bree Street Belle, we spotted a house viewing across the courtyard. We had landed in Maboneng on open day and the local sales team were there in force to tell us about the area's excellent investment gains. Apparently properties here see about a 12-14% yearly value increase, easily beating inflation. Furthermore, by 2015 the Maboneng precinct plan to develop an incredible 25 more buildings which they now own in the area (I didn't quite catch what that means in unit numbers, but I would say they are looking at adding thousands more flats). More and varied retail space is their next big focus (an area can't survive on a Sunday market alone) and they also plan to build student housing to bring some economic variation to the area, and of course to make it really, really cool.

The first property we saw was a converted factory loft. The ceilings were sky high leaving potential to add space with a mezzanine, although noticeably there were not many windows in the main living space. The showers (two, one for each bedroom), with old industrial windows used as doors, were about the size of your average bathroom and from the balcony you could easily zip-line your way over the courtyard and straight into the brewery bar. It was a large (125sqm) and unique space, which would suite young creatives with imagination and I can only imagine the kind of parties they could have there. Price? 1.5million Rand, which is around  £100,000.

Designer bathroom

Next we moved over to Main Street Life, a seven storey building with a boutique hotel on the top floor and an independent cinema and theatre on street level. The cheapest properties here are the studio flats (around 33sqm), which with their current furnishings unfortunately resembled hotel rooms. These units are on sale for 360K (about  £23K) and apparently rent for around 2,000Rand per month. For something slightly bigger they also still had a corner studio left, which came in at a considerably larger 55 square metres and was surrounded on two sides by full length windows (with views). Price? 550K (about  £35K).

Every floor of the building has its own artworks
The view from the top of Main Street Life
Maboneng are also selling properties 'off-plan' in two other nearby building starting at 580,000Rand for 50sqm in 'Revolution House' and 650,000Rand for a 65sqm loft style space in a building which, when construction finishes, will offer balconies and a communal swimming pool.

The redevelopment of this part of the city is certainly ambitious, poses many questions and has raised its fair share of controversy. The property mogul behind it all, Jonathan Lieberman, believes that in order to really redevelop and lift this tough inner-city area out of poverty and neglect, middle income and rich residents need to be looked after, as well as the existent poor population. Hence high-end properties, bijou dining spots and artisan shops have taken centre stage in the first part of the development. However, many people also argue that Maboneng currently only caters for those with money to the detriment of the local population, and certainly judging by the prices in the local bar I'd have to agree, life is pricey.

More local buildings slated for redevelopment
However, when all is said and done, as the endless spread of Joburg's northern residential sprawl is unsustainable, the regeneration and re-branding of these downtown areas is essential. Getting well-off South Africans to change their perceptions of inner-city living is a highly commendable thing. What these new urbanites do when they get there is another story.

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