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Hillbrow heritage building restoration a winner all round

With the purchase and restoration of Aiton Court, an historically and globally important residential building constructed in Hillbrow in 1938, the Trafalgar Property Group has proved that the interests of landlords and tenants in inner city areas can be directly aligned.

Located in the award-winning eKhaya urban regeneration precinct in Pietersen Street, the refurbished building houses 24 studio flats with their own bathrooms and 26 rooms with shared bathrooms – and was fully let within two months of its relaunch, says Trafalgar MD Andrew Schaefer.

“We also achieved much higher rentals than we initially expected, with the studio flats with a balcony renting for R3300 a month and those without a balcony renting for R2800 a month. The single rooms rent for R1800 a month which includes water, and parking in the building is R250 a month per bay.

“This indicates ongoing strong demand for well located, well maintained and well managed buildings in Johannesburg’s inner city areas, and Mayat Hart, the firm of architects and heritage consultants we worked with, believes that the Aiton Court project could well be a blueprint for the restoration of other buildings in these areas.”

Indeed, says architect Brendan Hart, the project is a “fine example of how inner city regeneration can be balanced with both heritage responsibilities and the commercial needs of building owners”.

Designed by pioneering architects Angus Stewart and Bernard Cooke and originally completed in 1938, Aiton Court was recognised and praised internationally as a pioneering example of Modernist architecture, and was for many years considered to be one of Johannesburg’s architectural gems.

Hillbrow Heritage building restoration

In the 1980s, the family that then owned the building was among the first to break the apartheid residential laws by welcoming black residents in what was then a “white” area, and soon after that it became a base for ACTSTOP, an organisation that championed the rights of inner city tenants, as well as a place of refuge for political operatives hiding from the security police.

But during the next few years its fortunes steadily declined, and it was in a total state of disrepair by 2012, when Trafalgar bought it and, finding that it was a protected building under the Heritage Resources Act, brought in Mayat Hart to consult on its refurbishment.

The firm developed a three-stage plan to achieve this while also making use of the subsidies offered by the National Treasury, the Johannesburg Development Agency and the Development Bank for inner city building improvements, and used the project as a tool to teach architectural conservation to second-year architecture students at the Wits University.

And now, faithfully restored and returned to its original colour scheme of white with colour accents including cerulean blue, chocolate brown, eau de nil and emerald green, Aiton Court is once again getting itself noticed – for all the right reasons.

By the Trafalgar Property Group

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