With August being Women’s Month, we are speaking to top female executives in the property sector this month. On this latest episode of The Property Pod we speak to Mariska Auret, a director at Rabie Property Group, the Cape Town-based developer and investment company most noted for its development of the Century City mixed-use precinct.
We chat to Mariska about her role in the group, how Rabie Property has grown over the years, and about its latest developments at Century City, which includes the new Bridgeways Precinct on the old Ratanga Junction theme park site.
Highlights of her interview appear below. You can also listen to the full podcast above or download it from iono, Spotify or Apple Podcasts.
“Rabie Property Group started in 1979, so it has a track record of  years this year, and we are extremely proud of that because every year our track record just gets stronger and stronger. It did start out as a bit of a family business with the Rabie family, and with Leon Cohen being a part of it from day one. He’s currently still the CEO of the Rabie Property Group, and it has evolved quite a lot from being a family business and it has grown over the years.
“Now we are busy training the next generation to take over the reins in the near future.”
“Rabie’s involved mainly in the Western Cape. We did some things that weren’t Western Cape, but I would say our main focus is in the Western Cape. We’ve done, for instance, Fernkloof in Hermanus, the golf estate. We’ve done Clara Anna Fontein Lifestyle Estate in Durbanville, which is a fantastic mixed-use or mixed-generational living estate with townhouses, free-standing houses, retirement villages. We are developing Burgundy Estate. That is sectional title. We do free-standing units there. We do commercial, we do light industrial, hotels and leisure. So our portfolio really exists of all the different components of the industry.”
How long have you been part of the Rabie Property Group?
“I’ve been with Rabie for eight years. This is my eighth year and I’m quite new to the executive suite, if I can call it that. I’ve been a director with them for about two years, but over the eight years I’ve had fantastic exposure to residential, sectional title, mixed-use developments, leisure, hotels and estates.
“So I’ve been very, very fortunate in having been involved in a bigger spectrum than maybe just one of our development types.”
The big new Bridgeways Precinct
“The Bridgeways Precinct is our newest, if I can call it that, precinct in Century City, but it is very much part of the greater Century City. The Bridgewater One project was the first one in the Bridgeways Precinct that we launched in 2019. It’s a big mixed-use development. We’ve got 122 apartments, an 80-bedroom hotel. It has about 10 000 square metres of office space [and] a double basement. And then it has some retail sites where we’ve some coffee shops and things like that included.
“It’s really a fantastic development. That was actually one of my babies, and one of my proudest developments that I’ve been involved in.”
“It has been a difficult one because it’s quite complex – with all the different components from leisure to residential to commercial – to work with all the different operators. And I think one of the biggest assets that we have in Century City for Bridgewater and for the next developments that’s going to be in the Bridgewater Precinct is the Ratanga Park.
“That is five hectares of green open space, with about 1.7 hectares of water bodies. And that carries through in Century City all the way to the other side of Intaka Island.”
“So we have really, really created the live/workplace space in Century City by adding this park where in the past we always talked about the live/workplace space; you can live here, you can work here. But we were lacking the ‘play’ a little bit.”
“And now with the park there, it’s fantastic. You can see the parkrun is going to start going through there soon. We see the joggers, we see the families go for a picnic, we see the standard paddlers … [and] the canoe clubs already using it. So I think the park is one of the greatest assets that we have that we’ve developed here in Century City. And for the Bridgeways Precinct in particular that’s been a fantastic asset.”
With Bridgeways, what is the value of the total development in terms of its overall plan and how much has been developed to date?
“Look, the Bridgeways plan is still a big rollout that’s going to happen. The Bridgewater One development, which was a half-billion rand project, was the first one to be rolled out in the Bridgeways Precinct.
“We’ve just launched a new sectional title scheme on the Bridgeways Precinct called Nine Palms. If you haven’t heard about it, there are still a few opportunities left. It’s a fantastic scheme. That’s the second one that we’ve only launched in the Bridgeways Precinct.”
“So there’s about another, I would say, seven to 10 years’ worth of work that is going to be rolled out there. The value of that would exceed a billion by far. It’s a big development that’s still going to happen over there.”
“Ratanga Junction was always a part of and owned by Rabie once Rabie got involved in Century City. When it started it wasn’t Rabie’s, but when we acquired the land at Century City that was a part of the land that we bought.”
“There will be the odd shopping [spots in the Bridgeways Precinct] … but we are focusing on the residential market, and then a very big component of that will be our retirement market. Rabie has a retirement arm that we call the Oasis Life brand, and we have successfully done our Oasis Life developments in the northern suburbs, and we’ve done one in Burgundy Estate.”
“The next one that we are rolling out is the one in Century City on the park. It’s going to be magnificent and we are aiming to launch that at the beginning of 2023. It’s a mixture of retirement-village units and sectional-title units, and then there will be a little bit of retail and possibly commercial on some nodes.”
“The demand in Century City has been fantastic. We are so happy that we could see a big uptake from our investors in the Nine Palms development. We launched it and I want to say [that] from launching to date it’s been about just over a month, and we have sold a hundred out of 132 units.”
“So the demand is definitely here. That’s why we are planning this scheme right next to it already, and trying to get that scheme in the ground as well so that we can answer to the demand that’s currently knocking on the door.
“The Bridgewater Hotel [is] owned by Rabie … It’s the sister hotel of the Century City Hotel … that was built at the same time as the conference centre. Joint CEOs Gary Koetser and Glyn Taylor are the operators, and they are also the operators for the Century City Hotel. So the two run concurrently and they’re complementing each other quite a bit. It’s actually lovely.”
“The conference centre in Century City complements our conference facilities that we have in Cape Town. They don’t compete with each other. I think they target a different market where our convention centres and things in town are focused on international conferences and very big conferences, [and] we focus on more medium-sized conferences, and a lot of local conferences.”
“The success of Century City Conference Centre is why we actually did go and develop another hotel, the Bridgewater Hotel, so that we had more rooms available in Century City to feed the conference centre.”
What differentiates Century City and the new Bridgeways Precinct from the likes of the V&A in Cape Town and perhaps other so-called ‘smart city’ or mixed-use cities that are being developed privately, like Waterfall City in Gauteng and the area around Gateway in Umhlanga?
“I think that we all have the same goal in mind and we all want this beautiful, mixed-use precinct where the live/work/play kind of works together.”
“I think if I go a bit local and I talk about Century City versus the [V&A] Waterfront – again, like the conference centre, I think we don’t compete with each other but we actually complement each other. I say that for a number of reasons. The Waterfront focuses a lot on luxury and it focuses a lot on international travel. It does have business, obviously, of course, and there [are] a lot of business people that come and stay there as well. But Century City, in our smart city we focus a lot on the local market and we focus on local stay and local business stay. So I do think that there we complement each other. We’ve got the same end goal.”
“I can’t speak from an operational side for the Waterfront or for Waterfall City, but from a Century City point of view on the operational front I think that is one of our greatest successes. We have got the Century City Property Owners Association and we call it, like, our own local little municipality in Century City, with Chris Blackshaw – we call him our mayor – who is extremely involved in the upkeep of Century City.”
“So we focus on security and we’ve spent a lot of money on security in Century City and making sure that we have got vehicles on site. We’ve got one of the most high-tech security operation control rooms as well, our own SOC [Security Operations Centre], where we monitor security in Century City. They make sure that it’s kept clean. They look after the landscaping; our infrastructure’s being taken care of. So on an operational level, I think Century City is absolutely fantastic because it’s so well run.”
Is Rabie looking at further developments around Century City or other parts of greater Cape Town and the Western Cape?
“Yes … Century City still has a lot of pipeline work that we are doing, and our Oasis Life brand is something that we are growing and that we are really focusing on as well. So we have a new Oasis Life Constantia. That will be launching closer to the end of this year or the beginning of next year as well.”
“Then we’ve got a second Oasis Life in the northern suburbs that we are looking at. We also have new developments out in Kuils River and Fisantekraal. So we are not just in Century City any more. We’ve branched out quite far within Cape Town and its surrounding areas.”