(Johannesburg) – After a year spent restructuring and consolidating its property development focus, Billion Group – founded by acclaimed Mthatha-born entrepreneur Sisa Ngebulana – has unveiled its plans to dominate the sector in 2018, with investment projects valued at over R6-billion.
In line with the group’s defined “live, work, play” strategy, these projects will see the expansion of four existing shopping mall precincts, originally developed by Billion Group, to include residential and office components – including a casino and entertainment complex among others. Also in the pipeline is the conversion of office blocks in the Cape Town city centre into luxury residential apartments, as well as two brand-new shopping centres – one for the Eastern Cape town of Ngcobo and the other an off-grid mall in Hebron in the North West Province.
Among these is the expansion of the Baywest City precinct, around the catalytic R2-billion Baywest Mall. This will take the form of a residential node next to the mall consisting of 580 homes. Other Eastern Cape projects for the group include the start of a 320-unit residential node around Hemingways Mall in East London – a development also built by the group. Inland, in the rural town of Ngcobo, the group will break ground on the Engcobo Mall. In Mthatha, Billion is set to complete its development of the area’s first post-democracy casino by 2018 year-end.
According to Billion Group commercial director Vuyokazi Njongwe, all the projects under construction would work towards creating contained community environments within carefully planned, people-friendly precincts to ensure the long-term sustainability of the various retail nodes.
“2017 has been a year of consolidation in which we have had the chance to focus on our pipeline and reassess what the market needs,” said Njongwe. “This year the business has refocused on property development, following the R5-billion sale of assets and two service companies to Rebosis. We expect 2018 to be a very busy year for us.”
As part of the R6-billion investment, coming on stream next year are the following:
- The start of the development of 580 residential units in the Baywest City precinct in Nelson Mandela Bay, which is anchored by the 90,000m2 super-regional Baywest Mall.
- A 320-unit residential apartment development in the Hemingways Mall precinct in East London.
- The construction of the R100-million Mthatha Casino & Entertainment: a 2,600m2 complex with conference facilities, bars and restaurants next to Billion Group’s 60,000m2 BT Ngebs City Shopping Centre and four-star Mayfair Hotel, and planned to open its doors by the end of the year. This will be complemented at a later stage by mixed-use residential and office space, comprising 300 apartments and an office park.
- Construction of the Engcobo Mall in Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape.
- Additions to the Forest Hill City precinct in Centurion, with 14,000m2 of office space, followed by the building of 340 residential (rental) apartments.
- The conversion of office blocks into residential apartments in the Cape Town city centre.
- The development of a 20,000m2, off-grid mall in Hebron in the North West Province.
Njongwe, who was raised in Mthatha, said the planned developments for the province in 2018 – in Ngcobo, Mthatha, Port Elizabeth and East London – was “a continuation of our unwavering interest in the Eastern Cape, a province that has, for many years, been neglected. We think that it needs the same kind of infrastructure as the rest of the country.”
Another exciting Billion Group project in the pipeline is the 20,000m² community mall in the North West town, Hebron. Having broken ground in late November this year, the mall is expected to open for business in late 2018. With its own water supply and sewage plant, it will only need to rely on an outside source – namely Eskom – for electricity.
“The aim is to be off the grid – something that we are planning on introducing on all our development projects. The latest design criteria has been used to make electrical consumption as efficient as possible,” said Njongwe.
She acknowledged the difficulty of investing in property development amid a weakening economic climate but said it called for bold action and the vision to anticipate market needs.
“We will have to deal with tough trading conditions in a tough market, but we will do what we do best: think differently and innovatively. The challenge excites us.”