Giuseppe Plumari is the Chief Executive Officer for Steyn City Properties. His Italian passion and precision for excellence has already made its mark on Egoli’s urban landscape.
Plumari has boldly created a unique development like no other; in sheer size and in budget. The grand 2 000 acre lifestyle estate is the largest residential development in Africa. “There is no development on the continent that I know of, that compares in size and infrastructure to Steyn City,” Plumari says proudly.
This R6, 5 billion mixed-use development is also a lifestyle resort and parkland residence. Steyn City includes 1 000 acres of extensive wooded parkland which constitutes 50% of the estate, making it the largest woodland in the bustling urban metropolis of Johannesburg.
Where it all started
Giuseppe Plumari was born in Italy but immigrated to South Africa later in life. He first became involved in the property industry in 1978 when he started doing alterations and construction for luxury homes. This soon led to small-scale developments in both the residential and commercial property sectors. Plumari embarked on his first residential development when he bought a piece of land on a deed of sale thirty seven years ago. He then bought two further stands.
“When I see an opportunity, it has always been a case of moving as fast as possible to conclude it, as well as being a risk taker to succeed. Although, I have always taken a certain amount of risk, I always have back-up plans in place to cover the eventuality of a downside,” Plumari cautions.
The knowledge and experience he had gained during his career has been instrumental in preparing Plumari to construct a development as monumental as Steyn City. By 2006, when Phase 1 of the development commenced, Plumari had 40 years of experience and expertise in the construction and property development industry to draw on. As a result, Steyn City is undoubtedly the crown jewel in Plumari’s prestigious property development portfolio.
“Property development and property investment is the most rewarding and secure investment that you can make, especially in the South African inflationary environment where gearing works at its best and if you have a long-term lease to back your re-payments,” comments Plumari.
In the development of Steyn City, Plumari had the backing of two of South high-profile South African’s; our late former President, Nelson Mandela and billionaire and insurance magnate, Douw Steyn. Steyn, Plumari’s long time friend and business partner, established Auto & General in 1985. In the early-90s, Steyn also established Budget Insurance Company and the Compare The Market website, both in the UK. He also owns the Saxon Boutique Hotel in Johannesburg and Shambala Game Reserve near Waterberg.
Mandela, wrote “Long Walk to Freedom” at the Saxon Boutique Hotel and “Conversations with Myself” at the Shambala Game Reserve.
Steyn is believed to have first met Plumari at a braai about 30 years ago. The pair became immediate friends and Steyn asked Plumari to develop a house and private game farm for him.
Inspired by the structure and layout of Hyde Park in London, which allows Londoners to move around freely outdoors, Steyn City was “A shared vision between myself and my long-time friend Douw Steyn, to create something unique,” says Plumari.
The vision was to develop a uniquely city South African city based on the pedestrianized, community-orientated cities of old. “We tried to examine what will constitute the most important factor in developing a residential estate in terms of lifestyle. During our research, we quickly discovered the most negative part in the way we live today is the traffic on our roads. It has come to dominate our lives to such an extent that that residences and suburbs have become islands in a sea of traffic and it is alsomost impossible for pedestrians to navigate outside of their homes,” Plumari explains. “One of the biggest barriers to our lifestyles of old, where children grew up playing on suburban streets, is the motor vehicle. Once we realised this, it became the fabric of our planning so that lifestyle norms can be restored.”
The design of Steyn City puts people, not cars, at the cetre of all activities, ensuring an unprecedented quality of life. The result is a lifestyle resort with all amenities conveniently located, giving residents back the precious commodity of time in a secure, upmarket environment. Steyn City features both residential and commercial properties and offers access to all amenities. In addition, a network of pedestrianised pathways and cycle tracks links all residential dwellings with numerous parks and dense woodland, creating an outdoor park-life environment and community-centered neighbourhood.
Intergrated lifestyle-focussed developments are an emerging trend and Steyn City has been a game changer in the South African property development industry. “This trend has been positive worldwide and the uptake locally is phenomenal, due to the need for a more secure ‘live, work, play’ lifestyle,” Plumari says.
Steyn City is situated North of Fourways between Dainfern and Diepsloot, on the outskirts of Johannesburg. It is located close to major arterial routes and Lanseria airport.
The land for the proposed Steyn City development was first acquired by Plumari in 1994. Once Plumari had acquired about 200 hectares of the land, it prompted Steyn to acquire the remaining tracts of about 800 hectares. Today, the site comprises 2,000 acres of land.
“Prior to Steyn buying into my company, it was my long-term strategy to purchase land on deed of sale on what I believed were future nodes on existing arterial routes, such as William Nicol Drive, Malibongwe Drive and Beyers Naude Drive. Since the 1980s, I invested in those corridors, buying raw land and obtaining rights,” Plumari explains.
The site encompassed a quarry and the Zevenfontein informal settlement. About 20,000 citizens of Zevenfontein were relocated to nearby Cosmo City and Diepsloot. “The development is on the doorstep of Diepsloot. That’s the very thing we’re criticised for – opulence next to poverty – but that is exactly where developments must be to empower people to get jobs, so they do not have to spend half their salary on transport,” Plumari says. “We worked with the government to move the Zevenfontein residents to 5, 500 permanent RDP homes built last year and 99.9% of them were ecstatic,” he adds.
Steyn City was constructed after eight years of careful planning and Phase 1 of residences were officially completed and launched in March this year.
At a macro-economic level, Steyn City has been a catalyst for the rapid growth of the Fourways node and the creation of the ‘new North’ of Johannesburg. Much of this growth has stemmed from Steyn City Properties’ upfront, multi-billion Rand investment into the required infrastructure and services in and around the development, including:
• a R300 million (a third of the total cost) investment in the road upgrade along William Nicol Drive, with plans to extend it through to the N14;
• cycle and pedestrian lanes from Mulbarton Street to the Erling Street interchange;
• a R73.9 million sewerage upgrade; and
• a new R35 million 30 megalitres water reservoir.
This has brought direct, positive socio-economic benefits for the neighbouring disadvantaged communities of Diepsloot and Cosmo City through the creation of more than 11,500 jobs. In addition, skills transfer is facilitated at an onsite Skills Centre that offers courses in plastering, bricklaying and paving. Based on this skills transfer process, local community members have started their own companies carrying out residential construction contracts within the development.
The massive investments in major infrastructure upgrades have also positively impacted on the City of Johannesburg, providing substantial support to government’s master planning for the region and fast-tracking regional infrastructure upgrades. More than R50 billion will be invested in Phase 2 of the project, while Steyn City is partnering with government to upgrade Cedar Road.
The future of Steyn City
“This is just the beginning of Steyn City!” adds Plumari. “There are many more phases that are still being developed. This will be my one exciting project that I hope to see to fruition.”
City Centre 1 within Steyn City is planned to be completed by 2018 and will include 5,000m2 of retail space. It will also feature a residential component consisting of about 740 apartments in eleven different configurations from penthouses to three-bedroom units.
Commenting on the solution for the future of South Africa, Plumari concludes: “The way forward in our country is to hold hands with government and our neighbours; to work together in public/private partnerships to help build this nation. To do this we need to tackle the challenges that we face and avoid stagnating in our differences.”
BY MEGAN DIENER