Despite its potential, Irene Court was a run-down apartment building in the central business district of Bloemfontein. The apartments had no doors, there were very few walls due to a lack of maintenance with tenants having to use curtains as dividers. And yet, Ntombi Sithole saw an opportunity to revitalise the building and transform it into the prime location it is today.
With the assistance of TUHF, Ntombi purchased the property in 2017 and began a refurbishment project that was completed a year later.
“Being so strategically located in downtown Bloemfontein at the heart of the Urban Development Zone, this property was a gem at an incredibly attractive price. Situated at the corner of Charles and Hanger Street opposite the Department of Health and next to Sanlam Plaza and China Mall, the opportunity to turn this into beautiful real estate was just too good to pass up on,” says Ntombi.
Additionally, given its location the property provided a great tax incentive and attracted a lot of tenants despite the condition it was in previously.
“To be honest, before we started the refurbishment, the place looked like a dumpster. The previous owner did not perform any upkeep or maintenance. We literally had to start from scratch and put in new tiles, doors, brick walls inside the apartments, burglar proofing, and new bathrooms. The scale of the project was significant,” she adds.
The first TUHF project in Bloemfontein
Considering this was the first project TUHF would undertake in Bloemfontein, Ntombi was motivated to prove the potential of Irene Court.
“As this was a brownfield initiative in the city, we had to establish relationships with builders and other stakeholders to ensure its success. The scope of the refurbishment presented us with many challenges and the first contractor really did not provide any assistance. I had to take over and invested R200 000 from my own funds to supplement the R4.6-million funding from TUHF and the Intuthukho Fund.”
However, Ntombi says that TUHF really came to the rescue and was more than a funding partner on the project.
“They helped me re-finance the property to be able to finish it and walk with us throughout the process and provided invaluable assistance. Paul Jackson in particular was an incredible mentor and it has been amazing to work with TUHF throughout the project.”
Today, she says it is an honour and a privilege to know that people are living in a decent place.
“From what it was to what the building is today required a major leap of faith. Fortunately, the equity growth has been marvellous and the support we received from TUHF throughout means we were never alone in this project. Yes, it was hard work and we went through difficult times, but the continued 100% tenancy rate of Irene Court makes it all worthwhile in the end,” concludes Ntombi.