The east of Pretoria will have a wonderland of new live-work-play facilities thanks to Atterbury’s Castle Gate Precinct, currently under construction. There is a secret to getting a mixed-use development just right, as development manager Raoul de Villiers explains.

There has been much excitement around the planned Castle Gate development. What is currently happening on the site – what has taken place since we last talked in October 2018?
We focused on obtaining all the necessary approvals over the past few months and are quite excited that we were able to start construction on site recently. The first phase consists of the construction of a lifestyle retail centre, some offices and a gym.

Tell us more about your role in the development of this site – what are your most significant regular challenges?
The site has various environmentally sensitive areas that need to be protected throughout the project.  There is abundant wildlife on the site which enhances this unique development, but the accompanying challenge is to ensure that we don’t disturb the ecosystem, so that  we can all enjoy the natural elements in the Castle Gate Precinct in the future.

The shopping centre is part of the lifestyle centre, right? Can you share specifics of how many shops it will contain and how the design is planned to make this very much a lifestyle facility?
The lifestyle centre is now well under way with the first structural columns going up. The centre will include the latest store concepts for Woolworths, Checkers, Dis-Chem and Builders Warehouse, also 10 restaurants and medical consulting rooms.  All of this will be conveniently accessible off Solomon Mahlangu Drive which we have also started to widen and upgrade.

Who is the architectural firm handling the design and have they worked on Atterbury projects before? What is the brief in terms of the look and feel of the development?
We have a longstanding relationship with Boogertman + Partners whom we have called upon again this time for the design of the centre and also the precinct master planning.  The theme of the lifestyle centre is openness, convenience and simplicity so the design talks to that with an open industrial farmhouse theme and focus on open-air green areas.

Mixed-use is very much the buzzword when it comes to urban planning; and Atterbury has embraced this way of approaching developments. What have been your learnings since the first development of this kind was tackled – are there better and worse ways to plan these, in terms of what goes where, the order in which different elements are developed, and so on? And which of those learnings apply at Castle Gate?
I have been privileged to have been involved in the initial phases of Waterfall City as well as the recently completed Iulius Town in Timisoara, Romania.  The key to the success of mixed-use developments is in the definition, namely the mix.  Getting the basket of amenities right for each site in relation to the surrounding areas and spending power is both creative and scientific; much like art.  We use the data available and have to apply some creative thinking and vision in order to establish what the collective need for commercial, industrial and residential space will look like over the next 10 to 20 years, because it takes a significant period of time to fully develop projects of this nature.

What excites you personally most about this development? How is this expected to impact on Pretoria?
Firstly, location, location, location.  The site speaks for itself.  As it’s bordered by the N1 freeway, R21 airport road and Solomon Mahlangu, a key arterial road through the East of Pretoria, you could not ask for a better location for a mixed-use development in this city.  The site will be a super-convenient hub for the existing eastern suburbs of Pretoria, as well as a self-sustainable live-work-play environment. Secondly, attention to detail. We are paying a lot of attention to landscaping, public walkways, natural parks and so on, which will be both aesthetically pleasing, environmentally friendly and practical in order to enhance this part of the city we love.