Commanding some of the best ocean views and among the highest property values in Nelson Mandela Bay, Humerail is emerging as Port Elizabeth’s boomtown, with home owners, business and blue-chip corporates sinking millions of rands into the suburb.
East London-based property owners and developers JH Group – which is managing the next phase of Humerail’s R160-million Waterfront Business Park – is at the forefront of the rapid upgrade of the suburb, which less than a decade ago consisted largely of modest homes built by the former South African Railways
Transnet, which incorporated the former South Africa Railways, is still the largest single landowner in the suburb and not only owns the land leased from the parastatal to establish the Waterfront Business Park, but also, along with other properties and buildings, the sprawling Humepark property which, until recently, housed the well-known Humepark Club and pub and a caravan park with permanent residents.
Underpinning the investment into Humerail, which now boasts multimillion-rand properties and homes, are expectations that Transnet’s contentious fuel tank farm and manganese ore dumps will be relocated from the Port Elizabeth Harbour to Coega within the next few years.
The removal of the tanks and the manganese will allow the development of a much-anticipated waterfront in the harbour precinct, over which Humerail will enjoy uninterrupted views.
Speaking from East London, JH Group property manager Eugene McNamara said the business park, including the two new buildings currently under construction there, represented an investment of R160-million.
Construction of the energy-efficient buildings, with double-glazed facade and harbour views, began during April 2013.
Joining a number of reputable businesses and organisations already established in the greater Humerail area, the Waterfront Business Park has attracted “premium grade office tenants which include DSV, TUV Rheinland and Investec Bank, SASFIN, CA Trust and Client Care.
“These companies occupy the first three buildings within the office park development, which will ultimately have eight buildings.
“Construction is under way on the fourth building and on the eighth. Construction on the other three will commence when tenants have been signed up for the sites,” McNamara said.
He said construction on the fourth building was expected to be completed during October.
Revealing that AON and CocaCola Beverages Africa would be basing their head offices in the fourth and eighth building respectively, McNamara said the presence of the tank farm and ore dump had not been viewed in a particularly negative light by the business park’s occupants.
He agreed, however, that the eventual removal of the two contentious harbour operations would boost the area and its property values.
When completed, the business park will occupy a total 15 000m² of land where a height restriction has been placed on the buildings to protect views enjoyed by properties located behind the office park.
Waterfront SuperSPAR manager Johan Potgieter said the increasing investment into the area had been welcomed by the business, which was positioning itself to cater for the influx of people to the area.
The supermarket is the anchor tenant in the Humerail Shopping Centre, which shares the immediate area with a trendy bar and eatery, a Clicks store and other smaller retailers.
“We have noted the developments in the area, including the expansion to the business park, which will naturally bring more people into the area. We expect to generate more trade as a result of that,” Potgieter said.
He said 27 new parking bays had been established in the immediate vicinity of the store to cater for the increasing number of people visiting the centre and the nearby Virgin Active Health Club.
With the exception of three remaining individual residences – which comprise caravans and wendyhouse and caravan combinations – the 13ha Humepark grounds are now vacant and its once popular bar closed. This follows Transnet’s decision last year to evict the pub from the property and the residents from the camping grounds.
One elderly caravan occupant, who would not identify himself, said he had lived on the grounds for the past nine years, but had not yet been given any notice by Transnet to vacate the property.
“We have not been notified about anything. As you can see, we are the only ones left here. If we are asked to leave, I don’t know where we will go,” he said.
Responding to inquiries around the status and future of Humepark, Transnet spokesman Molatwane Likhethe said: “The lease expired in January 2017. The tenants are in the process of vacating the premises. Transnet Property is currently weighing its options regarding future use of the site.”
A further significant investment is potentially on the cards for another of Humrail’s major drawcards, the Virgin Active Health Club.
Responding to questions around possible upgrades at the gym, Les Aupiais, who heads strategic communications for the company, said while it was too early to provide any details, she could confirm that the health group was in talks with the landlord over potential and “positive” developments.