Resort King to Real Estate Developer

Lessons from Sol Kerzner

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A name synonymous with luxury, opulence, and hospitality, Sol Kerzner is hardly a new face in the development arena. Best known for his brainchild, Sun City, Kerzner recently launched his first residential development: Kerzner Estate at Leeukoppie. Nestled between Hout Bay and Llandudno, the development is part of Kerzner’s 150ha family estate.

The marketing materials sum it up well, with Kerzner proudly proclaiming: “I call this place home. Now you can too.” In true Kerzner style, this won’t be just another housing development. Ross Levin, the developments director at Seeff, explains that Kerzner “wanted to share the spectacular property with others. Sol and the family are looking for neighbours to share their place with, their family home for over 35 years,” he said. “There’s a huge interest; everyone wants to live like this.”

As one would expect, extraordinary measures have been taken to make this a truly unique estate. Six South African architects have been tasked with designing the homes, ensuring no two look the same. Each home will be tailored to the site it is built on, taking advantage of views and sunlight. A total of 48 homes will be built on the 10ha portion of the Kerzner property set aside for development. Each stand comes in at around 1 500sqm, while homes will range from 374sqm to 738sqm.

studioMAS, the architecture firm selected to design two of the initial eight homes, elaborates on their inspiration for one of the homes: “We want you to look at the house and feel like it grew from the site, embedded in the landscape.” This theme is evident in each design, with the estate’s eco-conscious status being at the centre of things. Efforts are made to include natural building materials like wood and stone, and each home will make use of rain and grey water harvesting systems. Given its setting, special attention is also being given to restoring and protecting the surrounds. Indigenous vegetation will be restored, while fynbos will replace all alien pine trees in the estate.

The inspiration

Kerzner purchased the land back in 1983 for R2.25m. He explains that, throughout his world travels, this has always been the place he called home. He describes it as paradise at the southern tip of Africa, and it’s not that difficult to see why.

In an interview with Real Estate Investor Magazine, Kerzner explains that residential development was never something he thought of doing but that, since retiring from the hotel industry and having some time on his hands, he figured that it would be an enjoyable thing for him and his eldest daughter, Andrea, to do together. “Andy’s always been interested in real estate development, she’s taking the lead on this project,” he explains.

Andrea Kerzner is the founder and CEO of Lalela, a youth program that offers support and education to learners from the Imizamo Yethu, Hangberg and Masiphumelele communities in and around Hout Bay. Providing support to the estate’s impoverished neighbours lies close to Andrea’s heart. “In the development of the estate, we have asked that unemployed people from the area are employed by developers, that they train them and offer them future employment skills,” Andrea explains.

Another goal of the development, Andrea explains, is helping the environment: “We wanted to create something that was sustainable. Given what’s happening with climate change, we want to create a development thats not only beautiful to look at and enjoy, but thats environmentally friendly.”

Sol was involved in the designs of each home, Andrea explains: “Each house has been completely designed with the input from my father. We’re talking moving a wall by 100mm. It took us a year to sign off on 8 houses.” Initially, the plan was to develop the estate by selling plots, but the family came together and decided to do things differently. Realising that these homeowners would be their neighbours, the Kerzners decided that they wanted to ensure that each property offered its residents the same quality of living as the original family home.

Part of this is the estate’s unique resort facilities. Reminiscent of Sol Kerzner’s hospitality empire, residents will have access to 24-hour concierge services, horse-riding lessons, conference facilities, and basically anything else they may need. Andrea explains: “the development has definitely been inspired by my father’s luxury resorts.”

The homes

Each home is designed by one of South Africa’s top architects, ensuring a unique and memorable residence. Ian Gray from COA, another of the firms selected in the design process, explains that their design for one of the homes: “Maximises the site’s stunning features, and allows the sun to radiate into almost any room in winter.” Sally Tsiliyiannis from Gapp Architects echoes this, explaining that they: “want you to experience the site as it was before, the slope, the mountain, the greenbelt, the nostalgia of the trees.”

The first phase of the development, launched in February of this year, will release eight homes to the market. Prices start at around R20million, inclusive of all services and finishes. Homes range from three to five bedroomed, all with ensuite bathrooms, of course.

With the Western Cape’s drought crisis, it’s fair to wonder how the development will navigate water restrictions. Along with the aforementioned rain and grey water systems installed at each home, the development is taking steps to reduce municipal water use. According to Levin, provision of infrastructure and services is already completed, and the property has its own borehole. Levin adds that the development is unlikely to be affected by the current drought conditions, since construction on the first home is only due to start in about six months.

The eight homes in the first phase of the development will be built around a private open space, offering residents privacy and unique views.

 

In 2017, New World Wealth published its list of the top 10 business people in South Africa’s history. The selection criteria included how the individuals influence the country and international business community, innovation in their field, job creation, and the overcoming of challenges and obstacles. Unsurprisingly, Sol Kerzner topped the list. One of the main reasons, the report explains, is that Kerzner’s developments played a crucial role in the uplifting of their surrounding areas, effectively putting them on the map.

The Sun King’s resort journey started with The Beverley Hills Hotel in Umhlanga Rocks in 1964: “At the time, it was really a fishing village, so the development was quite controversial. Fortunately, it turned out to be good,” quips Kerzner. So good, in fact, that it became the first new resort hotel in the country to be aware five stars.

“Next came the Elangeni, which was much bigger. And then we teamed up with SAB…and we just never stopped building!” The next few years saw Kerzner build the Southern Sun chain, consisting of more than 30 high-end hotels across the country. Best known, and most iconic, of these is of course the Sun City resort. Opened in 1979, the resort was built on a black homeland state, Bophuthatswana. Since the Apartheid regime declared gambling illegal, the location offered Sun City a distinct advantage.

“The first phase was incredibly successful. Much more than I had even anticipated. Within six months, we were building the cabanas. And soon we were building the third phase, including the Super Bowl [arena],” Kerzner explains. Frank Sinatra performed at the opening of the arena, firmly placing Sun City on the international map. In the years that followed, many more stars were lured to this stage, making it one of the best-known venues in the country.

After completing the Lost Palace at Sun City in December of 1992, Kerzner realised he needed a new challenge: “With that, we bought the Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas, where we built Atlantis.” This continued with the One&Only developments around the world.

More than 50 years after starting in the resort business, it seems fitting that Kerzner brings his years of experience to one of the most exciting new developments on the Atlantic Seaboard.

Take a closer look at this estate, and the amazing properties now available, at http://kerznerestate.com.

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