Aengus Investment Properties (AIP) is set to transform Port Elizabeth Central into a thriving mixed-use property node with the launch of its Oh!41 creative hub at Havelock Square in October.
With eight years of experience in rejuvenating inner city properties, the company will breathe new life into this historic, but neglected part of town.
“Our strategy has always been to invest in communities around our buildings to revitalise areas,” says AIP CEO, Richard Rubin. “The mixed retail and residential development planned for PE Central will help attract young people back to live, relax and shop in the area.”
At the heart of its revival strategy is converting historic Victorian buildings into stylish and affordable student accommodation. An agreement with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) to help address the shortage of student accommodation, perfectly positions Aengus to kick-start the urban renewal.
The company currently owns six buildings in the Central precinct, including four buildings on Havelock Street. These buildings have been completely renovated and offer students 350 beds with gyms, laundry, security and entertainment services.
“Students are looking for affordable, safe, convenient accommodation with all the mod-cons, such as wireless internet and organised transport to and from campus,” says Rubin. “Central PE is situated close to universities and colleges and is an ideal place for students to study and stay in style.”
Aengus has built its reputation on buying, upgrading and managing inner city properties in other major cities. The company has 4 student accommodation buildings in Johannesburg with 400 beds as well as three buildings in Durban with 200 beds.
The Oh!41 Creative Hub is the next step in taking its urban renewal strategy forward, with Phase 1 launching on 6 October. Already the retail component is fully let, with photographers, dress designers, comic illustrators as well as coffee shops and bakeries taking up space. Tenants are offered space for four months rent-free and thereafter pay just R48/m2, with a rent free period to allow for easy trade.
“We want to help entrepreneurs get on their feet and support the growth of local small businesses in the area,” says Rubin. “Oh!41 will comprise spaces which encourage creative thinking, curiosity and communication, an exciting step towards revitalising Port Elizabeth Central.”
Havelock Square will also host the Local Market on the last Saturday of every month with farm stalls selling organic produce, gourmet merchants, artists displaying their work and visitors enjoying fresh food and coffee while being entertained.
Already the project has inspired guerrilla gardening, and soon artists will transform the park near Havelock Square by installing sculptures to beautify the surrounds.
“What we’re seeing is an interactive and collaborative approach to sustainable neighbourhood planning and development,” says Rubin. “This recognises innovation and creativity and is sensitive to an area’s history, while emphasising the people living and working there. A neighbourhood is only sustainable when its economic, social and physical systems work together.”
Rubin believes the Creative Hub will not only be the catalyst for making the area safe and beautiful again, but will also attract visitors from outside the geographical area.
Concludes Rubin: “We hope that this integrated approach to urban renewal will lead to a revolution in property development across other towns in South Africa.”