Spotlight on Hyde Park
Hyde Park is rejuvenated as younger executives and professionals move ‘back to town’ into new luxury cluster homes and apartments.
Hyde Park was once part of Zandfontein, one of the five Voortrekker farms that together made up the municipal area of Sandton. It was acquired by the Finger family in the early 1900s and subsequently divided into smallholdings, but only formally declared a ‘township’ in 1955. As in neighbouring Sandhurst, it was common until the 1950s for buyers to acquire these plots to provide stabling and weekend ‘rides’ conveniently close to their existing Johannesburg homes.
Sandwiched between central Joburg and the city’s rapidly expanding northern suburbs, it underwent another round of subdivisions in the 1960s, and saw an influx of permanent residents – marked by the establishment of the area’s first government high school, Hyde Park High – as the local area council began to improve regional infrastructure, including construction of the ‘Nicol Highway’.
These residents were the authors of many of the gracious multi-acre estates for which Hyde Park is still renowned – and which marked it indelibly as an area of choice for the top echelon of SA society. Hyde Park even got its own fully enclosed shopping mall – Hyde Park Corner – in 1969, five years before the massive retail development at Sandton City would be completed.
In the last 15 years the residential character of the area has undergone yet another change, with developers moving in to provide newly built homes to meet the demands of a new generation of wealthy buyers looking for high-end, low-maintenance, high-security living.
New Money meets Old
Just minutes from the retail and financial hubs of the Sandton CBD, Hyde Park (and neighbouring Sandhurst) has somehow managed to retain certain key elements of its rural and agricultural past. Its tree-lined streets – many of them boomed off – remain exceptionally quiet (thanks, in part, to road closures leading off William Nicol, and to the suburb’s unusual street grid). Most of its homes remain large and luxurious, although many of them are hard to see now behind the high walls that have become the development norm here.
In addition, it has an undeniably ‘old money’ ambience and enjoys a residential cachet not unlike the part of London for which it was named – a decidedly plush precinct adjacent to the original royal deer park. For all that, though, Hyde Park is enjoying a new lease of life, similar to that being experienced by many older central suburbs, with younger executives and professionals who have ‘new money’ moving in.
According to property data company Lightstone, some 30% of the current property owners in Hyde Park acquired their homes less than five years ago. A quarter of those who bought homes in the area in the past year were under 35. The reasons for this shift are not hard to find, says Lew Geffen, chairman of Sotheby’s International Realty in SA, which is one of the top-selling agencies in the area.
‘There has for some time now been an increasing demand for homes in heritage suburbs that are well supplied with good schools, convenient shopping facilities and a variety of entertainment and sporting venues, primarily due to the increasing traffic congestion on major routes and the rapidly rising cost of fuel. ‘
This trend has undoubtedly been strengthened, he says, by the increasingly widespread use of technology that has made it possible for many people to do much of their work from home, and perhaps visit their decentralised offices only two or three times a week.
Newly Built Homes
In the case of Hyde Park’s renaissance, the major factor has really been the increased availability of newly built homes – many of them designed by well-known architects such as Keith Mason, Arthur Quinton and Philip Watermeyer. These homes successfully address modern preferences for high-security and low-maintenance living without sacrificing any of the exclusivity that is the essence of the area. This ties in, Geffen says, with a general decline in demand in recent times for sprawling trophy properties on very large stands. ‘Wealthy buyers are often quite prepared to pay as much for a modern, low-maintenance property in an upmarket complex as they would for one of these older suburban mansions.’
Of course, such properties offer the benefits of shared resources such as really hi-tech security systems and managed services, which mean residents don’t have to individually oversee the upkeep of the grounds.
Hyde Park has the added advantage of proximity to Sandton and Johannesburg CBDs, as well as the exclusive shops and entertainment venues in Hyde Park Corner, Sandton City, Melrose Arch and the Thrupps Centre in Illovo. Family buyers here also have a choice of many excellent public and private schools, including Pridwin, Kingsmead, Sandown High, Hyde Park High, St David’s and Crawford College.
But what really clinches things for Hyde Park is that it is one of a handful of areas in SA that delivers an unfailing return on investment. Indeed, as Seeff Sandton agents Corinna Lowry and George Papadopoulos recently pointed out: ‘Ten years ago you could still buy a house in Hyde Park for around R4 million. Today the average selling price is more than R7,5 million. This makes it one of the 10 most exclusive neighbourhoods in the country, and one of the top choices for buyers seeking certain capital growth as well as luxury.’
Text: Meg Wilson and Nechama Brodie
Photographs: David Ross, supplied