Winning back Jeppestown

PROPERTY developer Dawie Swart has big plans for what is today a run-down part of Jeppestown, Johannesburg.
Swart’s plans go beyond buying blocks of flats, fixing them up and turning them into decent accommodation. Instead he talks about creating “a neighbourhood”, turning “a dead area” into a community in which people will want to live, shop, work, socialise and raise their families.

In the property business since he was 19 years old, Swart bought his first building in Jeppestown in 2005. Financed by TUHF, the building was subsequently hijacked but Swart was determined to make his investment (and Jeppestown) work and he fought tooth and nail until eventually he won back control of the property.

Most recently Swart bought 28 Betty Street, a four-storey building that was once a clothing factory and that he and his partners are now converting into 84 flats; 60 two-bedroom (38m2 – 42m2) and 24 one-bedroom (25m2 – 28m2) apartments. As well as transforming the interior of the building, builders are adding another floor to the property. On the ground floor Swart is putting in quality retail space and he sees Betty Street, which is literally down the road from the Jeppe Police Station, being turned into a one-way with cobbled paving. “We’re going to create a quality living area, where people will want to live, where they’ll feel invested in their neighbourhood. It’ll be a bit like the Maboneng Precinct [closer to the Johannesburg CBD],” he says. Rents at Betty Street will be a reasonable R2,800 for one-bedroom units and R3,500 for two-bedroom units.

Swart will be heavily invested in the neighbourhood he envisages creating out of an area where, despite its proximity to a large police station, people have been afraid to venture at night – his company, Salt City, will eventually have 260 low-income units in Jeppestown, all financed by TUHF. And his investment is considerable. Swart bought 28 Betty Street in 2013 for R5.25 million but renovating the property and equipping it for its new residential use will cost double that amount. In total
the entrepreneur expects to spend R40 million on renovations at his Jeppestown portfolio, at an approximate cost of R100,000 per apartment.

Being carried out at cost by Swart’s partners, Inkanyeli Projects, the 28 Betty Street renovation began in April 2014 and was scheduled to be completed by the time of the builders’ year-end holidays, ready to welcome new residents in January 2015.

Once fully let, 28 Betty Street will employ 14 people full-time: nine security and five management, maintenance and cleaning staff. This is apart from part-time employment that will be created. For eight months in 2014 some 70 people would have worked full-time on 28 Betty Street.

Swart’s vision for “his” part of Jeppestown will not only secure his and his partners’ investment, it will have the effect of winning back another part of inner city Johannesburg from decades of neglect, crime and grime. “A building doesn’t exist in isolation from its surroundings,” says Swart.

“If you want a building to work, the area around
it has to work; people want to feel part of a community. And when they feel that they are part of a community, they will help you to look after the area. It’s a very satisfying feeling knowing that we’re not just doing up a few buildings but that we’re uplifting a whole part of Joburg.”
From our 2014 Annual Report

Winning back Jeppestown