John Rabie is a man with vision. Having started the Rabie Property Group in 1978 with partner Leon Cohen, the property guru has, over the last three decades, cultivated the ability to see beyond barren land and envisage an urban landscape, creating commercial and residential developments from concept to completion.
Rewind to 1999 as just one example, when John and then-partner Cavcor initiated a joint venture with the Cape Province to unlock the potential of the 95-hectare Westlake Estate at the southern end of Constantia Valley in Cape Town. At that time, Westlake was a derelict piece of state-owned land occupied by various run-down or under-used buildings. While others saw bleak and inhospitable hopelessness, John saw potential, an opportunity for change and the chance to turn liability into a substantial asset. Today, Westlake Estate is a model mixed-use development, comprising prestigious office parks, a well-laid-out light industrial area, boutique shopping centres and restaurants, a social housing village, an upmarket residential sector, a prestigious private school and even the new United States consulate.
The success of Westlake quickly become a blueprint for John, winning him and the company a FIABCI award and catapulting them as one of South Africa’s leading independent property companies. Active throughout South Africa, the group’s main focus has, however, been in the Western Cape, and, in 2004, its track record in developing large-scale, mixed-use projects was put to the test once again.
It was during a boat ride through the 16 hectares of wetland on Intaka Island (Xhosa for ‘bird’) that John immediately saw the prospect of transforming the area into the now successful and highly sought-after city within a city, known as Century City. Despite a few small existing developments, Rabie Property Group purchased the land and started what was to become a modern-day R 21 billion success tale of 250 hectares of mixed used development, whilst retaining the wetlands. A game changer in the property sector, this cosmopolitan place provides a unique urban lifestyle where everything is on the doorstep of homeowners, including shops, offices, schools, restaurants, entertainment, healthcare and exercise facilities and a soon-to-be conference facility with a capacity for 900 people.
The residential component is made up of various exclusive developments, each with its individual appeal and style and suitable for the entire family. The Waterstone precinct is made up of the Waterstone East and Waterstone Isles and was rated the best residential development in South Africa in 2010 by the South African Property Owners’ Association, whilst Willowgreen, a block of just 38 spacious, north-facing apartments, forms part of the greater Ashton Park development. Set in a secure, landscaped precinct alongside the Curro Private School, it is the ideal place for young families looking for a long-term and convenient investment. Completing the offering is Century City and Oasis Retirement Resort, conveniently situated within a secure perimeter and without doubt one of Cape Town’s most comprehensively equipped retirement options.
Looking for new challenges, John branched off in 2011 and formed Signatura, South Africa’s first private label property brand. Although he still remains non-executive chairman at Rabie, John’s focus is now on providing tailor-made, master-crafted property opportunities for high net-worth individuals looking for something unique, either as a home or as an investment opportunity. In doing so, he is successfully changing the face of Cape Town, rejuvenating 19 buildings throughout the City and Atlantic Seaboard to date.
The latest to change the face and fortune of Cape Town’s lower CBD is the R1 billion first of its kind five-star development incorporating a hotel and world-class apartment block combo in the former Safmarine building, one of the city’s architectural masterpieces. Upon completion, the development will house the luxurious flagship Radisson Blu Hotel and Residence, Cape Town, as well as 11 floors of executive apartments filling the top half of the building. Owners of the 166 executive apartments (which start at R1.63 million for 40m² and six penthouses between 150 and 190m², with 12 to 24m² terraces) will not only be able to lay claim to unarguably the best views in town, but also to the full range of amenities and services offered by the hotel, including use of the pool and bar areas, access to the concierge and meeting rooms, room service and the restaurant. All apartments are also fitted with air-conditioning, imported Italian kitchens and SMEG appliances and there is energy efficient LED lighting throughout.
As an additional bonus, owners will be able to add their apartments to the hotel rental pool, and beneficial to investors is the tax deduction, equal to 30% of the value of the apartment over five years, due to the development being situated in an Urban Development Zone (UDZ).
Redefining the urban landscape, changing mindsets and solving the urban space conundrum, John Rabie’s search of long-term solutions in the property sector shows no sign of abating. A man with vision, experience and an incessant ability to create landmark developments, he most definitely sets the trends that others follow.