Arguably the pinnacle of Port Elizabeth’s beachfront properties, a large tract of undeveloped land on the summit of Brookes Hill will go under the hammer on Tuesday, when it is expected to attract bids in excess of R10-million.
Bordered by plush, multimillion-rand homes, Happy Valley and hectares of unspoilt bush, the 6 280m2 property is on the highest point of Brookes Hill and offers spectacular and unrivalled 360 degree views of the city and Algoa Bay.
Auctioneers In2Assets say the property may be the last development site of its size, location and calibre in the general vicinity of Marine Drive on the Beachfront.
The sale has, however, attracted concerns from neighbours.
The property holds a Residential 3 zoning, is authorised to accommodate a maximum of 80 residential units and has a maximum height restriction of 40 metres or 10 floors, factors which are causing concern for the adjacent 73-unit residential complex, Kings Terrace.
A portion of the property is a designated heritage site occupied by a World War 2 battery observation post.
The property is owned by Sisanda Development Services, which at the time of its acquisition comprised an 11-member consortium of well-known Bay businesspeople, construction and engineering company owners and former and current Bay politicians.
Sisanda director Tim Hewitt-Coleman said yesterday that while there was excitement around the auction, he was sad that the potential of the property had not yet been realised.
He said the site had been acquired after its owner, the Department of Public Works, issued a tender for the sale of the land.
“There is a reserve price on the land,” Hewitt-Coleman said.
“We are hoping that someone will take the ball and run with it and create something which is an asset to the city.”
Responding to the concerns, he stressed that the development was simply the sale of the land.
“The site has the Residential 3 zoning and, accordingly, artists’ impressions were created to demonstrate the potential of the site,” Hewitt-Coleman said.
“However, if the property is sold, it could be brought by someone who simply holds on to it as an investment, or it could be purchased for a single residential unit.”
He said the issues around the site had been addressed during the rezoning process.
Kings Terrace body corporate chairman Neil Glenn said he was concerned about the sale.
“The land was acquired in a controversial manner in 2002,” he said.
“The sale price was R630 000 and the asking price now is in the region of R20-million.
“It is very clear the land was sold far below market value.”
Kings Terrace objected to the rezoning of the property in 2006.
“We were never involved any further by the council nor were we informed of the outcome,” Glenn said
“It certainly appeared at the time that the application was not pursued.”
He listed as concerns public access to the observation post, that the soil was unstable and would not be able to support a large building and the additional traffic and parking as a result of a large development.
The water infrastructure on the hill was also not sufficient, Glenn said.
Historian, Historical Society of Port Elizabeth chairwoman and Mandela Bay Heritage Trust member Margaret Harradine said yesterday: “As long as [the observation post] is not demolished and preserved there should be no problem.
“There are other observation posts in Port Elizabeth which can be accessed and viewed by the public, so public access to this particular site should really not be an issue.”
The auction, to be conducted by auctioneer Andrew Miller, will take place on site in Brookes Hill Drive at 11am.