History. Heritage. Higgovale…
Higgovale, born from a colonial settlement, offers history, as well as culture, nature and urban living all within easy reach.
When terrain inspires design
Higgovale is a tiny oasis nestled on the top slopes of Table Mountain, full of secret gardens, quaint cul-de-sacs and magic forests where houses have names. Secluded and intimate, the suburb overlooks Cape Town’s City Bowl, with Lion’s Head looming behind. The winding roads and uneven terrain have inspired architects like Van Der Merwe Miszewski Architecture (VDMMA) to design Higgovale’s most recognisable homes. They have used the inherent beauty of the sites to design the Tree House, which is built on a sloping swathe of land and sits in among a canopy of umbrella pines; Cliff House is perched on a narrow, steeply sloping sliver of land populated with stone pines and poplar trees; while the Bridge House straddles a triangular plot with a dry river bed and tangled undergrowth.
A suburb with history and heritage
The entire area is steeped in history, with steps, old boundary walls and remains of pathways scattered around. One of the most extraordinary homes in Higgovale is the restored slave quarters within St Johns Estate, which is just a short walk from the city through its private gates. This one-of-a-kind dwelling was restored and modernised in 2007 as a tribute to the early slaves of Cape Town.
Time was when Higgovale residents lived insular lives and neighbours lived side-by-side without ever meeting. All this has changed since an energetic group of activists turned a derelict bowling green in Oranjezicht into an urban farm. Now Higgovale neighbours are out on the streets, either doing their civic duty as members of the Oranjezicht Higgovale Neighbourhood Watch or at the Oranjezicht City Farm on Saturdays, where local farmers and artisanal foodies sell their produce. Spearheaded by Higgovale volunteers Sheryl Ozinsky and Kurt Ackermann, the farm and the market have instilled a sense of community into the neighbourhood, which is good for its social life, not to mention local security.
Higgovale is ideal for lovers of heritage architecture, culture and nature. The Table Mountain National Park, with its hiking and walking trails, gives residents instant access to nature – and to the history of the Cape. What’s more, Table Mountain is a World Heritage Site and home to the richest biodiversity on the planet. The suburb is now also a place where the voices of children are heard in the streets and parks. Its village atmosphere has also spawned a ‘guerrilla gardening movement’, and Higgovale residents are fanatical gardeners who, when they’re done with their own gardens, beautify neglected public verges. Every so often visitors are invited by Open Gardens of Oranjezicht and Higgovale to take a tour of the best gardens in the neighbourhood.
The price of Higgovale properties
Rainer Kloos of Re/Max Living says, ‘You are close enough to the Table Mountain National Park to call it your backyard, yet the busy and exciting city is only five minutes’ away. Higgovale is one of the smallest and most exclusive suburbs in any city in South Africa and consists only of 225 homes and 78 sectional-title units (ST). Quite a few of the ST units are beautiful townhouses, sometimes in a two-unit complex.’ He has such a unit listed at R14,85 million in exclusive Higgo Road, which is on three levels with its own elevator and has four large en-suite bedrooms. Very few apartments exist, but expect to pay R35 000 per month to rent a two-bedroom apartment. Higgovale has shown incredible capital growth over the past year, he says, with an increase of almost 2%. However, very few sales take place: it seems that once you move into Higgovale you don’t move out!
‘Roads such as Higgo, Invermark Crescent, Glen and Glencoe that partly border onto the Table Mountain National Park and command great vistas of the city, the bay and mountains beyond regularly boast some of the highest prices in SA. Re/Max Living currently has a home listed in Invermark Crescent at R30 million and we sold a beautiful home in Bridal Road last year for R26,5 million,’ he says. ‘Higgovale falls under the so-called “township of Oranjezicht”, so the exact borders are sometimes blurred. Interesting is the period of ownership. Almost 40% have owned their properties for 11 years or longer, while the average SA family moves every six years. From a municipal ranking perspective, Higgovale places just above Tierboskloof in Hout Bay and just below Bakoven – all close to the R8 million average price for freehold properties – and between Bakoven and Camps Bay at R4,5 million for sectional title,’ he concludes.
Pam Golding Properties area manager for the City Bowl and Atlantic Seaboard, Basil Moraitis, says Higgovale remains one of the most desirable suburbs in the city. ‘It is centrally located within easy reach of the CBD and V&A Waterfront, as well as Clifton and the cosmopolitan Camps Bay strip, plus the restaurants of Kloof Street. The suburb is protected from the prevailing south-easterly winds, and offers a wide array of homes, from large family homes on substantial plots to several historic properties dating back to the 1700s.’ Dogon Group Properties City Bowl team, Byron Kruger, Keith Anderson and Talitha Finkay, recently sold the landmark triple-storey Tree House, listed at R17 million. Finkay says despite the high prices in Higgovale, buyers are getting excellent value. ‘The properties are still lower priced than comparable properties on the Atlantic Seaboard. There is a mixture of upmarket family homes, from older homes that need some upgrading to modern designer homes. Higgovale offers the comforts of suburban living – in the city centre.’
Two residents. Two views
‘I have lived in Higgovale for 14 years, but it was only when I had my son, who is now four years old, that I realised that Higgovale was not a family-friendly place,’ says Kurt Ackermann, community volunteer and OZCF co-founder. ‘What was missing was the social fabric built around neighbourliness. I set about changing the things about Higgovale that I did not like. The Oranjezicht City Farm has given me an opportunity to make a positive contribution.’
Kurt continues, ‘The farm is next to Homestead Park, which has play equipment and is a place where kids can meet up. I have seen people become comfortable and confident with being part of a neighbourhood. Now I can walk to school with my child or walk to the farm where he can learn the difference between a runner bean and a broad bean, and he can harvest a carrot. Those are magical things.’
Nicolas Baumann, heritage consultant and town planner, elaborates on the suburb, ‘I have lived in Higgovale all my life,’ he says with pride. ‘The property I live on used to be part of a larger property that my grandparents owned almost 100 years ago. I built the house I live in 22 years ago.
‘One of the most significant qualities of the area is its location between the mountain and the sea,’ Nicholas adds. ‘I love the fact that it is relatively wind-free. In terms of area density, there is a relatively large diversity in plot sizes with some smaller plots in the Glen area dating from the first part of the 20th century and the larger erven on the higher slopes that date from the second half of the 20th century. I love the green environment, which is in the form of a forest of stone pines planted by the German community that settled here. The layered and textured character of the suburb has attracted a diverse and cosmopolitan group of residents.
‘My favourite space in the area is the Terrace at the Mount Nelson Hotel. I go there often because I work from home and it is a refuge for me. On Sunday mornings I walk the dogs on the mountain… being perched above the city in the wilderness is certainly special. The range and depth of choice of eateries on Kloof Street is incredible. My favourites are Café Paradiso, Caffe Milano and Manna Epicure. Clarke’s Bookshop on Long Street has had my patronage for 50 years.’
Where to eat, drink and shop…
Kloof Street is only minutes away; here you will find the Lifestyle Centre offering a Woolworths, beauty spa, pharmacy, cinema, laundromat and Wellness Warehouse. There’s a smorgasbord of restaurants, from the famous Bombay Bicycle Club, Arnolds On Kloof, Bacini’s, Asoka, Black Sheep and Kloof Street House to Saints Burger Joint. Afternoon tea at the Mount Nelson in Orange Street is on every world traveller’s bucket list and it is a mere stroll down the hill. Also close by is the Iziko South African National Gallery, South Africa’s premier art museum.
- Oranjezicht City Farm: ozcf.co.za
- Open Gardens of Oranjezicht and Higgovale: opengardens-oh.withtank.com
- Café Paradiso: cafeparadiso.co.za
- Caffe Milano: caffemilano.co.za
- Manna Epicure: mannaepicure.com
- Clarke’s Bookshop: clarkesbooks.co.za
- Bombay Bicycle Club: thebombay.co.za
- Arnolds On Kloof: arnolds.co.za
- Bacini’s: bacini.co.za
- Asoka: asokabar.co.za
- Black Sheep: blacksheeprestaurant.co.za
- Kloof Street House: kloofstreethouse.co.za
- Saints Burger Joint: saintsburgerjoint.wordpress.com
- Mount Nelson: mountnelson.co.za
- Iziko South African National Gallery: www.iziko.org.za
Text: Andrea Vinassa
Photographs: Lar Leslie, supplied