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Monday Oct 01, 2012

Ambitious property development to revitalise PE Central precinct

Aengus Investment Properties (AIP) is set to transform Port Elizabeth Central into a thriving mixed-use property node with the launch of its Oh!41 creative hub at Havelock Square next month.

The public library is a landmark of central Port Elizabeth.

With eight years of experience in rejuvenating inner city properties, the company aims to breathe new life into this historical but neglected part of town.

"Our strategy has always been to invest in communities around our buildings to revitalise areas," says AIP chief executive Richard Rubin.

"The mixed retail and residential development planned for PE Central will help attract young people back to live, relax and shop in the area."

At the heart of its revival strategy is converting historical Victorian buildings into stylish and affordable student accommodation. An agreement with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) to help address the shortage of student accommodation perfectly positions Aengus for the urban renewal project.

The company owns six buildings in the Central precinct, including four buildings on Havelock Street. These have been completely renovated and offer students 350 beds with gyms, laundry, security and entertainment services.

Aengus has built its reputation on buying, upgrading and managing inner city properties in other major cities.

The company has four student accommodation buildings in Johannesburg with 400 beds as well as three buildings in Durban with 200 beds.

The Oh!41 Creative Hub is the next step in taking its urban renewal strategy forward, with phase one launching on October 6.

Already the retail component is fully let, with photographers, dress designers, comic illustrators as well as coffee shops and bakeries taking up space. Tenants are offered space for four months rent-free and thereafter pay R48/ m 2, with a rent-free period to allow for easy trade.

"We want to help entrepreneurs get on their feet and support the growth of local small businesses in the area," says Rubin. "Oh! 41 will comprise spaces that encourage creative thinking, curiosity and communication, an exciting step towards revitalising Port Elizabeth Central."

Havelock Square will also host the Local Market on the last Saturday of every month, with farm stalls selling organic produce, gourmet merchants, artists displaying their work and visitors enjoying fresh food and coffee while being entertained.

Already the project has inspired guerrilla gardening, and soon artists will transform the park near Havelock Square by installing sculptures to beautify the surrounds.

"What we're seeing is an interactive and collaborative approach to sustainable neighbourhood planning and development," says Rubin. "This recognises innovation and creativity and is sensitive to an area's history, while emphasising the people living and working there. A neighbourhood is only sustainable when its economic, social and physical systems work together."

Rubin believes the Creative Hub will be the catalyst for making the area safe and beautiful again, and will also attract visitors from outside the area.

"We hope this integrated approach to urban renewal will lead to a revolution in property development across other towns in South Africa," says Rubin.

Call Richard Rubin on 011 684 2676, email richard@aen or visit www.aengus.

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