As the digital nomad trend grows worldwide, savvy property developers in the Cape Town CBD are fostering a dynamic hub for working and living in South Africa’s most successful inner city.
Back in the 90s and early 2000s, software engineers weren’t really considered cool or trendy. They pumped out code and drank litres of coffee. A couple of decades later, some of the savviest people in business are tech entrepreneurs who work at their own pace in some of the most exotic locales on our blue planet and it just so happens that there is such a spot at the tip of Africa.
Digital nomads are now finding themselves in cosmopolitan cities which meet their diverse needs and one city which genuinely stands out as a sexy new kid on the block is Cape Town.
This is a gorgeous city which draws the eye of tourists from across the globe. It is the best-governed city in SA with its CBD standing out for being the best managed. The Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID) is one of the main organisations which works to ensure that the CBD functions at a top-class standard. The CCID, a not-for-profit private-public company, does its utmost to keep the CBD safe and clean.
The CCID works in tandem with the City of Cape Town to make the city centre liveable and workable – and a desirable place to visit.
Murray Clark, CEO and founder of Neighbourgood.
ENABLING BUSINESS CULTURE
It’s no coincidence then that all kinds of entrepreneurs who can work remotely are finding themselves in Cape Town. These people run their own businesses or the African, Middle Eastern and emerging offices of a multinational, for example. They are attracted to lifestyle and business culture, both of which Cape Town has aplenty.
It’s also a city which is relatively affordable for Europeans and Americans. These people can work from anywhere in the world. They are choosing to stay in a beautiful city, often living within or near the CBD. They like the walkability of the city centre, and access to high-quality amenities.
A digital nomad visa program is also in the works, which will help it to attract the best talent from around the world.
The visa will allow remote workers to stay in South Africa for longer periods than previously, allowing them to spend more time on projects. Currently, foreigners are allowed to stay for 90 days, but with the digital nomad visa they’ll be allowed to stay for longer.
Neighbourgood’s Bree Street co-working space.
TAILOR-MADE LIVING AND WORKING SPACES
Developers and property managers are also noticing that digital nomads are embracing Cape Town and are tailor-making living and working spaces for them. Murray Clark, CEO and founder of property development company Neighbourgood, says digital nomads are looking to the living and working spaces designed and managed by his company in the Cape Town CBD.
Neighbourgood, which launched in June 2020, owns 500 living units and 500 working stations spread across buildings in Cape Town. In the CCID’s inner-city footprint, this includes Neighbourgood East City (formerly the iconic Townhouse Hotel), and Neighbourgood Reserve in Adderley Street, both thoughtfully designed developments that include living and working spaces with exceptional amenities, and a connected community.
As with other developments that cater for digital nomads, they are integrated inner-city spaces that provide fully furnished living and working spaces with flexible lease terms and superior amenities.
“We have an assortment of people living and working in our buildings. Many of these people are nomads who typically work remotely in tech-related jobs for a large multinational or for themselves. Cape Town is the kind of city which offers what these people desire in terms of lifestyle. At Neighbourgood, we do our utmost to ensure that the services we provide are world-class and suit these people’s needs,” says Clark.
An apartment in One Thibault Residence, with its enticing view of Cape Town Harbour.
CREATIVES FLOCK TO THE MOTHER CITY
The Cape Town CBD has attracted numerous advertising and production agencies as well as all kinds of other creative businesses. Streaming content providers including Netflix and Showmax, which are developing films and series in the city, often work with freelancers including animators, sound and video editors and back-end tech support, all of whom are people living digital-nomad lifestyles. They may find themselves living in New York, Berlin, Helsinki and now, Cape Town.
“I’ve found that our tenants work for newly formed businesses which often operate in new industries. These businesses have a different approach. If you look at Johannesburg, you will probably find older businesses where the approach to business includes more traditional thinking. These may be businesses that operate out of large offices, employing thousands of people. There are different approaches to renting offices for businesses and I believe that the Cape Town CBD caters for this in many ways, but especially for a smaller business, a one-person show,” says Clark.
Digital nomads build communities where their businesses collaborate with each other. Being able to access professionals and specialised people just a few hundred metres away is very useful. A software developer could find an animator, for example, working in the same co-working space.
One of Neighbourgood’s properties is Neighbourgood Bree Street Workspace, one of 19 co-working spaces in the Cape Town CBD.
“It’s one of our properties that is popular with digital nomads. It’s position is ideal, in a commercial hub of the city. We find nomads typically stay here for a period of two weeks to a few months. Many want to stay longer and would do so if they had a nomad visa,” says Clark.
Grant Elliott, COO of Thibault Investments, which owns mixed-use building, One Thibault.
THRIVING CO-WORKING SPACES
Rob Kane, CCID chairperson and CEO of Boxwood Property Fund, a landlord that owns an assortment of commercial buildings across the CBD, agrees that co-working spaces are thriving.
“Our offices include shared workspaces in their offering. All of these are full. We are bringing in new restaurants, bars and other services as the precinct around us develops,” says Kane. Boxwood’s flagship building in the city centre, The Box, has a waiting list for its co-working space, The Box-Office.
Adding to its allure are the bird’s-eye views of Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, the Atlantic Seaboard and the ocean beyond.
This is also one of the many attractions of One Thibault (formerly BP Centre), the tallest residential building in the Mother City. Grant Elliott, COO of Thibault Investments, says the iconic city-centre development – which was transformed in 2022 from a commercial into a mixed-use building with half-commercial, half-residential letting space that includes an aparthotel and Airbnb – has become very popular with business travellers, including digital nomads. There are 257 luxury suites available for short or long-term lets through ITC Hospitality.
Says Elliott: “Digital nomads are attracted to the quality of the accommodation including the ability to self-cater if needed, high-speed uncapped internet as well as the spectacular views. One Thibault is also situated on the Foreshore in the CCID’s footprint, so the area is safe and clean, and it’s also close to amenities and transport. Cape Town is also the heartbeat of the Western Cape economy. “The city and the province are poised for better economic growth than the rest of the country,” says Elliott.
It’s certainly vibey and trendy and stands out as a destination of choice for businesspeople, tech wizards and dynamic entrepreneurs. The CCID and the City have created a wonderful offering which is drawing the best in global talent.
There has been a strong demand for One Thibault’s luxury suites, known as One Thibault Residence, says ITC Hospitality general manager Charlene van Zyl. “Thibault Residence opened its doors on 1 December 2022. We had no idea what to expect but we experienced a bumper festive season. We had occupancy of 89 to 98 % from December through to March. While many of these bookings were lfor leisure travel, business travel, including that generated by digital nomads, remains consistent, she says.
Thibault Residence is one of many quality flexible accommodation establishments in the Cape Town CBD – located close to a plethora of restaurants, cultural venues, bars, and open public spaces – that lend themselves perfectly to capitalising on the digital market trend.
Any digital nomad or business traveller should make a visit to Cape Town’s inner city and see for themselves.
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