Montrose City has Mega goals

By Eamonn Ryan

Montrose City Mega Development is a seven-year R11-billion mixed integrated development in Gauteng’s Randfontein, which includes residential, commercial, retail, passenger train station, public amenities, industrial development light and heavy.

Delivering a new home

Delivering a new home

In total, the development will yield 14 000 units, of which Phase 1 (itself split into phases 1A, 1B and 1C) is currently under construction and will yield 5 602 units to be known as Montrose Township. The development has at its heart the upliftment of the community, and empowerment is consequently key to every activity. There are between 750 and 800 people working on site every day, creating a mini-economy that is already uplifting the local community.

Sam Mhlaba, CEO of Montrose City Mega Development, says construction of Phase 1A will take four years, with construction having commenced in November 2017. Phase 1 has a development cost of R3.25-billion, which includes housing, infrastructure and schools; phase 2 R6.65-billion; and other amenities such as a Prasa (Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa) connection an additional R1-billion, as well as R550-million for renewable energy.

The development was championed by SCM Property Developers along with primary client (at the moment) the provincial department of COGTA and Human Settlements. Mhlaba notes that there will be a number of clients throughout the duration of the development, such as Prasa when the railway line is being built and the Department of Education when the first school is constructed.

SCM Construction is the main developer and part owner of the Montrose City, which is a special purpose vehicle (SPV). It is responsible for all levels of construction, appointing a varied mix of contractors — emerging and experienced, medium-sized and larger — with the purpose of uplifting and empowering contractors, thus enabling them to improve their CIDB grading.

One such sub-contractor, Hakhensa, is a CIDB grade 6 business which was given an allotment of 126 units to build, on the basis they employ and train locals. TN Molefe, a CIDB grade 8 company. was appointed on the same basis, under the stewardship of SCM Construction, to develop locals and encourage involvement by as many grade 1 and 2 local firms as possible. Mhlaba explains this might include small operators that can build one unit at a time, under the supervision of  TN Molefe.

At an early stage, the client opted to convert the project to a mixed-use one by establishing offtake agreements between government departments and local businesses such as mines, to create an economic component. “The thinking was that local residents would require job opportunities within walking distance (where possible) and these offtake agreements would help establish a host of local businesses to supply the mines, and such other businesses as may in future be established,” says Mhlaba. “In other respects the mixed use concept led to including bank-bonded units in addition to 100% subsidised units.” In this respect it mimics the Cosmo City concept with all the elements that government policy determines constitute a human settlement: schools, shopping malls, health facilities, police stations, a community centre with a hall, parks and recreational areas, a library, a cemetery and several churches.

The co-ordinating civil engineer for Montrose is SMEC South Africa, which co-ordinates all the other professionals (of which there are a number, including architects and quantity surveyors). It acts as a technical adviser while simultaneously designing the bulk earthworks and roads. Other engineers were responsible for the design of internal roads, bridges and reticulation, including bulk electrical supply, and a 30Mva electricity sub-station, the latter being designed by Risimati Engineers. The internal electrical designs, as well as mechanical and fire, from site boundary to each unit, was designed by BES Africa.

The design of other internal services including roads and stormwater (from the site boundary to each unit) was by Siyathunya. The civil engineering contractor on Phase 1A is Trencon Construction, for a contract valued at R92-million for services such as roads and water, and Phase 1C TN Molefe valued at R22-million. Phase 1B is seeing no activity for now. In addition to the overarching responsibility of SMEC, the overall project manager, which now included management of community links, local authorities and clients, was SCM Project Management.

Montrose drawing

Drawings for Montrose Mega City.

Project launch

Project launch.

Scope of Work

“It is a greenfields development on what had previously been farms. It provides subsidised housing: 100% subsidy (1 608 units in phase 1) and for military veterans (174 units), social housing (1 915 units), bonded units (1 225 units), and community rental units (680) for a total of 5 602 units,” says Mhlaba. Under government regulations, there are qualifying criteria for each category, such as a wage cap or provable military experience.

There will ultimately be a population of between 56 000 and 70 000 people in the township. Phases 1 and 2 will be split by the railway line, and as it will be a busy place, Mhlaba explains it will also require two bridges over the railway line to link the two halves without creating bottlenecks. The regional shopping centre, workplaces and other facilities may swell the population during the day.

Assisting the development is the fact that the local authority was a prime mover behind it, and consequently let no obstacles get in its path. “It was a collaborative effort,” Mhlaba says.

The municipality has sufficient capacity in terms of water and electricity to provide for phase 1, but thereafter some additional infrastructure will need to be constructed. “There’s sufficient water for the initial 5 600 units, and we are busy with the connection of the sewer to the municipal line where there is also existing capacity without upgrades required,” Mhlaba explains. “There is available electricity up to a maximum of 3 000 units. For the remainder of the 14 000 units, we’re involved in a three-way agreement between ourselves, the municipality and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (also a partner in the SPV) and have reached agreement on a plan of action which will be implemented during the next two years as phase 2 materialises, to provide sufficient electricity.”

For instance, there are plans for two adjacent solar plants covering 30ha each over a 20-year period, which may ultimately provide power. Further ‘greening’ of the community will stem from plans to recycle grey water within the community for industrial purposes rather than returning used water to the municipal infrastructure. These will become part of phase 2.

Mhlaba says that during the construction peak, between one and two million cubic metres of concrete were being poured each week. The scale of the work means a number of different suppliers are involved, including AfriSam, WG Wearne and Senzobex, while cement was also provided by PPC, and third-party suppliers such as Cashbuild and Bricks for Africa.

The current state of the project:

  • The installation of services was started, which includes water reticulation, sanitation/sewer, roads and storm water.
  • In September 2018 the installation of services on Phase 1C was started.
  • In October 2018 the construction of top structure commenced units which include military veterans units, and BNG RDP units.
  • Estimated completion of services being installed on Phase 1A is June 2019.
  • Estimated completion of the services being installed on Phase 1C is July 2019.
  • Estimated completion of the top structures is on June 2019.
  • In June pipe jacking will commence for the following across or underneath the railway line: storm water, electricity, sewer/sanitation.
  • Developers are currently busy with the town planning services for Phase 2, which will yield 8 190 units known as Montrose Ext 1.
  • The duration is six years, which will overlap with phase 1.
  • Developers are in talks with Prasa and Transnet on the development of a passenger train station similar to Johannesburg Park Passenger Station.

Materials used to date:

  • Cement stock bricks – 10 million bricks
  • Maxi bricks – 1.5 million bricks
  • Clay bricks – 1.2 million bricks
  • Concrete steel reinforcement   600t
  • Concrete – 10 000m3
  • Cement – 18 000 bags of cement 32.5kg
  • Aggregates – 15 000m3 building sand and 7 500m3 plaster sand
  • Roads and storm water – Asphalt roads 17.1km
  • Sanitation/sewerage – 17.1km
  • Water reticulation – 19.3km

Sam

Sam Mhlaba, CEO of Montrose City Mega Development.

Challenges

There was a lot of rock on site, requiring both packing by jackhammer and excavator, and blasting. This delayed the start of civils work by some time, says Mhlaba.

There was considerable community excitement and expectation at the commencement of works, says Mhlaba, but not unexpected given the high levels of poverty and unemployment in the area. This was resolved through communication and education: “People realised this was a long-term project and they should not be impatient to see some benefits, as we will get to everyone.”

Bulk infrastructure was an initial problem but was escalated and resolved with the municipal service providers to prevent hindrance to the development, especially the larger phase 2.

In a development as complex as this one, the developer could not afford to sit back and rely on the pace of government action, as momentum was vital. Mhlaba says SCM took the initiative in bringing together all the parties – Transnet, Prasa, Department of Education, Human Settlements, to ensure all the legs moved in a synchronised fashion. “It was a journey that began in 2015 until we broke ground in November 2017. As the land was a farm, it had to be converted to a township for planning purposes. We acted as enabler of all the professionals, and the myriad processes: EIA, geotechnical, Surveyor-General and more. For instance, in respect of the school we are entering into a partnership whereby we build a smart school which will align with education department goals.

A final challenge, common to all developments, is that the units — including proposed industrial, commercial and retail spaces — have to be fully occupied. “It will not be viable if only 50% is occupied. Our role as facilitator is therefore to create a conducive environment which makes the mixed-use components commercially attractive. Then we will move on to phase 2, because the demand for housing will automatically increase,” says Mhlaba.

List of professionals

  • Client: Montrose City Mega Development
  • Project manager: SCM Project Management
  • Engineering manager and technical co-ordinator: SMEC South Africa
  • Town planner: Midplan and Associates
  • Environmental: Enviro Xcellence
  • Land surveyor: Nonyane and Associates
  • Geotechnical engineers: Geopractice and Enviro Xcellence
  • Electrical Infrastructure design: Risimati engineers
  • Electrical, mechanical and fire engineers on buildings: BES Africa Engineers
  • Water reticulation, roads and storm water designer: Siyathunya Consulting
  • Quantity surveyor: Baloyi QS and Vusimuzi QS
  • Architecture: SCM Project Management
  • Occupational health and safety: Bophepha Consultant
  • Marketing and communications: Nungu Marketing and SIV Marketing
  • Legal services: Adams and Adams
  • Transactional advisers: Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo

 

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