Exploring SA’s most expensive street

Construction next to Constantia Primary School.

Montreal Road in Bel Ombre, Constantia, was the most expensive street in South Africa with the average house costing R29 875 000.

This is according to research conducted by Lightstone Property from March 2018 to March 2019.

Lightstone analysed nearly eight million residential and commercial properties across South Africa.

Bel Ombre lies between Constantia Heights and the Constantia Glen.

The Bulletin asked chairperson of the Constantia Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (CRRA), Sheila Camerer, what makes the area so attractive.

She said Constantia offers rural ambience in the middle of the city.

“There are all these huge trees, the vegetation, it has an almost subtropical feel. It’s honestly beautiful.”

Ms Camerer said that what made Constantia an income generator to the city was that its farmlands contributed to the agricultural and tourism industry. She said Constantia was a job creator for the city and a leisure destination.

“The farmlands not only generate a lot of income, they also create plenty of job opportunities. They attract tourists who want to see them, and the large properties that they are placed on attract the wealthy who obviously want to buy them.”

Ms Camerer said Constantia’s historic wine farms dated back as far as the 17th century. “When Napoleon was in exile, Constantia provided him with wine. Constantia has a remarkable wine-making history.”

Napoleon Bonaparte was allowed to drink wine made at Groot Constantia while exiled on the island of Saint Helena from 1815 until his death in May 1821.

Ms Camerer said the Constantia properties had an almost arcadian ambience to them and it was important that they were preserved and protected for their historic quality.

“Just like District Six, Constantia is also historically important. The whole city loses if it is not preserved.”

Ms Camerer also spoke about Constantia’s green belt, where horseriding, cycling, walking and dog walking trails can be found. She said that they were made for the whole of Cape Town to enjoy and acted as an escape from urbanisation.

She said Constantia also had a couple of tucked away exclusive rehabilitation centres. “There has even been hearsay in the past that the likes of Tiger Woods and Ivana Trump have been seen hiding out here at the rehabs.”

When asked if Constantia had faced recent crime challenges, Ms Camerer said that they had seen a significant drop in crime as the CRRA, with there only being four reported crimes in the month of June compared to the 17 reports of crime in the previous month. “I think it’s a record. But it changes all the time, it’s usually gang-related and not about the suburb. When gangs move in, the crime rate is usually high, then when they move out again it’s back to normal. In the past we’ve dealt with gangs moving in from the Hout Bay area, like when the Namibians moved in but they were ousted and they left.”

Ms Camerer said that a huge challenge that they were facing was the threat of new unattractive developments.

She pointed to the development by the Solomon family whose property was taken from them under apartheid’s Group Areas Act and returned to them in a land claim.

She said the CRRA took the family on for their development of a Checkers which was considered to be far too big.

“It’s a monster, it’s far too high and it stands out like a sore thumb. As the CRRA, we took them on review but we lost. Our servitude as the committee is to limit negative developments and to make the commercial people behave. Things like bars and nightclubs in the future would not be something that you’d want in your residential area. That would be something that could threaten the livelihood of Constantia.”

Ms Camerer said that they supported land claims but were not happy with the land being used for “unattractive developments”.

A number of black families were forcefully removed from Constantia by the apartheid regime but so far only two families have been given land back.

A memorial walk organised by the Constantia Heritage and Education Project (CHEP) was held on Heritage Day last year (“Proud stand for heritage, Bulletin, September 27, 2018).

Driving the project is a group of former Constantia residents that include Reverend Terry Lester, a priest at Christ Church who was born in Strawberry Lane. As for the high municipal rates in Constantia, Ms Camerer said: “I met someone at a dinner party recently, he stays in Dawn Avenue and said that his rates were about R20 000. But he pays in pounds because he is in the UK so he doesn’t really feel it.”