Johannesburg’s landmark gets a facelift

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Johannesburg's Ponte Towers is now undergoing a multi million-rand revamp, the cost believed to far exceed the estimated R17m Cotterell paid for Ponte in the early 1990s. Johannesburg's Ponte Towers is now undergoing a multi million-rand revamp, the cost believed to far exceed the estimated R17m Cotterell paid for Ponte in the early 1990s.

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Film producer David Selvan and developer Nour Ayyoub’s grand plans to buy Hillbrow’s Ponte City for R100m and turn it into a chic residential address — with penthouse price tags at R5m, no less — have come to naught .

But despite the collapse of the deal, first announced three years ago, East London-based Tony Cotterell still hopes to restore some of Ponte’s former glory. 

Cotterell’s truck rental group, Kempston, has owned Africa’s tallest residential building for more than 15 years. The 54-storey Jo’burg landmark is now undergoing a multi million-rand revamp, the cost believed to far exceed the estimated R17m Cotterell paid for Ponte in the early 1990s. 

The facelift includes extensive upgrades to the building’ s 475 flats, the installation of eight new high-speed lifts, a biometric access control system and a viewing deck at the top . Fast food chain Bimbo’s will open an outlet on the eighth floor before year-end, with an additional 2500m² of new retail space set to be ready for occupation by mid-2012.

But Kempston doesn’t share Selvan ’s and Ayyob’s ambitious view that Ponte could regain its status as a swanky address . “Though Hillbrow’s crime-and-grime situation is starting to turn around, it will probably take 10 years before we see higher-income residents return to the area,’’ says Kempston group accountant Jason Kruger. 

Kempston’s aim is to lure middle-income residents back to Ponte — police , nurses, teachers and middle management employed by banks in the CBD. Though Ponte was overrun by drug and slum lords in the late 1990s, illegal occupants were evicted a few years ago and have been slowly but surely replaced by lower-middle income (paying) tenants. 

Around 60% of the units are now let. Rentals vary from R2100/month for bachelor units to R3400 for three-bedroom flats, while the subdivided penthouses are fetching R6000/month. 

Kruger dismisses talk that Ponte is still on the market. “The building has never officially been for sale, but we look at all offers if and when we get them.” 

Kruger is not saying what Ponte’s book value is. But cylindrical building exceeds R500m , based on Rode & Associates’ minimum building cost estimate of R9000/m² for high-rise apartment blocks, the replacement cost of the 56000m² tower exceeds R500m.

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Johannesburg  |  Ponte Towers  |  Tony Cotterell  |  Kempston
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