PROPERTY: Straight A’s for Aengus’ Student Accommodation Strategy
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Based on unrivalled expertise and experience, and superbly executed in a challenging market, Aengus’ student accommodation strategy in the CDB of Johannesburg has been one of the greatest urban renewal success stories.
The CBD of Johannesburg was redlined by finance houses for many years and many property companies have failed to recognise the opportunities within this area, driven by a global trend towards urban renewal, Government’s emphasis on inner city regeneration, the commitment of some of South Africa’s largest corporates to upgrade their inner city headquarters and the urban living trend gaining momentum among the young and upwardly mobile Generation Y.
Aengus, however, was not only among the first movers within the property market to identify the prospects within this area, but has successfully tapped into these opportunities with a well-devised and superbly executed strategy of refurbishing existing buildings into modern, stylish residential units.
Providing upmarket student accommodation has added another dimension to this successful strategy, and the 2011 student intake in Aengus student accommodation units have underscored the exceptional success of their approach.
Having identified the lucrative student accommodation market niche in the Johannesburg CBD some years ago, Aengus drew together its impressive expertise in urban renewal projects and a thorough understanding of the requirements of a new generation of student consumers into a strategy that has proven both recession-proof and exceptionally sustainable, given the new dynamics in the property market.
There are a significant number of educational institutions in the vicinity of the Johannesburg CBD, including two of South Africa’s most prestigious universities – the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the University of Johannesburg. In addition, Damelin has a strong presence in the CBD and there are more than 70 educational facilities in Braamfontein. Yet, on-campus student accommodation is in dire short supply, and only around 20% of the student intake can be accommodated in university residences. The other 80% of the students present a lucrative market, driving demand for an alternative to traditional private student accommodation, which has gained a reputation for poor conditions and overcrowding over the years.
Aengus stepped in to provide a solution for this niche market by refurbishing existing commercial buildings in Braamfontein and Parktown into state-of-the-art student accommodation units that are safe, convenient, well-maintained and furnished with modern fittings and amenities. Aengus’ experience in urban renewal ensured that while modern and upmarket, these units are available at rentals that compare favourably with university residences.
The Argyle Precinct is an entire city block within walking distance from Wits, features 427 upmarket one-bedroom and studio apartments. Parktown Views accommodates another 150 students while the recently completed YMCA building on Rissik and Smit Streets, across the road from the new Gautrain station, offers another 240 units with 312 beds.
“The uptake of our student accommodation units during the 2011 student intake exceeded all expectations,” says Richard Rubin, CEO Aengus Property Holdings. “Within weeks since the 2011 student intake commenced mid-January, our student accommodation, which comprises around 1 500 beds, were 85% let.
“There are a number of reasons for this exceptional uptake in 2011. Our accreditation with the University of Johannesburg, which complements our long-standing relationship with Wits, has provided additional impetus this year. In addition, our latest value-adds - free transportation for students to the university campus and Wi-Fi connectivity in all our buildings – have proven extremely popular. Of course, our private, self-contained units with their own bathrooms and kitchens, as opposed to dormitory style accommodation, continue to prove to be a winning concept. In fact, these well-priced, yet modern and convenient units, further enhanced by these additional value adds, ensure Aengus offers more than just run-of-the-mill student accommodation – it offers a lifestyle that is being snapped up by the new Generation Y students, who are tech-savvy, value and social conscious, and more discerning about their lifestyle choices.”
The free transportation takes the form of a shuttle bus that runs continuously between the Aengus student accommodation buildings and the university campuses between 6:00 and 18:00 every day. Wi-Fi connectivity ensures that students can remain in touch with friends and loved ones 24/7, while having all the resources of the Web at their fingertips to assist with their studies and projects.
“Despite the excellent uptake, the demand remains strong, underscoring the sustainability of our strategy to provide quality upmarket student accommodation at the right place and at the right price, and to do so while contributing to the vibrant renewal of the inner city and optimally drawing on all the resources and expertise Aengus has accumulated over years of successful urban renewal projects,” says Rubin.
“Our expertise in refurbishing existing buildings, and our hands-on approach to property management, which includes our own tenant management, security and maintenance programmes, has ensured a sustainable demand for our student accommodation units. Building on this success, our focus remains on further extending our student accommodation property portfolio both in Gauteng and in Durban, offering an all-round solution for this niche market that addresses all their highly specific requirements, cost-effectively and conveniently. Whether corporates looking for accommodation for bursary students, concerned parents looking for safe, well-maintained accommodation for their children, or progressive Generation Y students who are not willing to compromise on quality or value for money, Aengus has successfully created a unique offering that is differentiated from the competition through quality and exceptional value for money, creating a strong foundation of sustainability to ensure success into the future.”
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