As we celebrate MidCity’s 40th anniversary this year, we want to take our readers on a journey back to where it all began. Although MidCity is a forward-thinking company, we do realise the importance of looking back and using the lessons of the past, to direct our vision for the future. Journey with us as we explore the past four decades’ challenges, growth and impressive successes. Many of these triumphs can be ascribed to the importance of the company’s four non-negotiables: sustainability, innovation, service delivery and integrity. These four cornerstones are embodied by the Group’s brand icon of four triangular stones, each representing a value to which the group stays intentionally loyal.
During the first half of 1983, Dawie de Villiers was approached by Prof. Piet Botha and Mr. Steyn Pieterse to start a subsidiary company in the JS Pieters Construction Group. The new company would be tasked with a property management function in the Group’s construction operations. Between May and August 1983 two companies were established: Huurbestuur, responsible for leasing and managing buildings and Deeladmin, specialising in the administration of sectional title schemes. On 1 September 1983, Dawie de Villiers, Prof. Botha and Steyn Pieterse opened the doors of the two companies, situated in a modestly sized office of 55 m2 in the Pretoria Medical Centre.
These humble beginnings did not faze the dynamic trio. Within a year, Huurbestuur was the first fully computerised property management company in Pretoria, offering a comprehensive service package. And with the passing of the new Sectional Titles Act, Deeladmin had their work cut out for them, helping owners to navigate the many administrative aspects and technicalities in the sectional title market.
By 1985, Huurbestuur and Deeladmin had outgrown their office in the Medical Centre and moved to the Struktura building in Arcadia to occupy the 4th and 5th floors, with an impressive floor area of 360 m2.
The years 1985 to 1987 were marked by the arrival of four experienced individuals: Glen McCreath – appointed as Commercial Director, Marlene van Vuuren – General Financial Manager and Ping van Aswegen and was appointed Head of the Deeladmin department. In 1987, Des Reed joined as Director of Residential Properties, responsible for all letting administration. Huurbestuur and Deeladmin together were considered a “HOLISTIC PROPERTY SOLUTION,” offering clients a one-stop-delivery service in the property business.
As a socially aware company that has always understood the importance of reaching out to the community, the Group Huurbestuur assisted in converting Beatrix House in Arcadia, into a temporary homeless shelter. This came after realising the need of homeless families in Pretoria upon which De Villiers expressed that, “Companies need to realise that social responsibility is essential. Caring is just as important as progress.”
After four years of annually doubling their turnover, Huurbestuur was in a position to take over Urban Property Administration Limited and Dawie de Villiers predicted exponential growth. The following period was indeed characterised by progress, with projects being launched beyond the Pretoria region. The company soon decided to up their marketing game and their first radio advertisement was recorded and broadcast by Radio Jakaranda. Huurbestuur also hit the mark when they decided to sponsor the Pretoria Country Club’s golf score cards, attracting the attention of key players across the business sector.
More growth was to come when Premier Investments, the largest property company in Pretoria at the time, had to close its doors. This was followed by the takeover of J de Moore Properties and Rene Estates, a Pretoria house rental and administration company. Huurbestuur now boasted an internal department of house rentals. The company was bursting at the seams and with a staff of approximately 60 members, additional offices had to be rented.
When asked, De Villiers ascribed the company’s continuous success to the group’s policy of diversification, with a strategy of specialised companies managing each of the property administration divisions.
The 1990s arrived with a bang when Huurbestuur announced that going forward, the Group would be known as MidCity. The name change was followed by unparalleled growth over the next five years, especially in property developments.
Another milestone was celebrated in 1991 when De Villiers negotiated a first-time-ever deal with the United Building Society, involving a buy-out of all United’s Property in Possession (PIP) flats in Gauteng North. With the same deal structure, he then negotiated the buy-out of Perm’s and Saambou’s PIP flats in the Pretoria region.
One of MidCity’s proudest moments is the Group’s involvement with the development of Soshanguve’s first shopping centre. This development was symbolic of the emergence of black business from the shadows of informality into the formal sector, with the centre being comparable to upmarket malls in other parts of South Africa.
In 1993, MidCity celebrated its tenth anniversary, a decade characterised by phenomenal growth, mainly because of the large number of takeovers. De Villiers was still at the helm of the company, his co-directors Des Reed, Glen McCreath and Marlene van Vuuren.
During the first half of the 1990s at the dawn of the New South Africa, the development of embassy buildings offered exciting new opportunities. MidCity participated in a number of these projects, including the embassies of Tanzania, the Republic of Cote d’Ivore, Thailand and Singapore.
Into a New Millennium
The new millennium brought with it new triumphs. A huge milestone reached in these years was the flagship development of the Alexander Forbes building in Brooklyn, Pretoria, of which De Villiers said: “It was definitely the hardest, but most satisfying development I’ve done, and will hopefully remain a ‘landmark’ in Pretoria for a long time.” This was followed by the successful takeover of Yellow Button, another large property management company. Acquiring the expertise of Yellow Button’s David Hewer (Financial Director) and Amelia Steyn (Director Sectional Administration) as well as approximately 50 experienced staff members was definitely the greatest asset of the takeover, transforming MidCity into one of the most dynamic property companies in Pretoria.
2003 was marked by another development – the birth of Khwela Power, the Utilities management division of the Group. In 2015, the division was renamed Khwela Power Metering, boasting a new logo and now also supplying clients with the service of bulk electricity reselling management solutions as well as water meter reading services. In keeping with this stride, InsureCity, the company’s insurance brokerage, established in 2003 also received a new logo.
On turning twenty, MidCity had developed from a modest start-up with two staff members into one of the largest property service companies with 85 administrative employees. The board was now made up of Dawie de Villiers (CEO), Des Reed (COO), David Hewer (CFO), Marlene van Vuuren (Director – Trust Division) and Amelia Steyn (Director – Full- and Sectional Title Division).
Come 2005, the Group made yet another great stride by establishing KhwelaCity, a black economically empowered company. This transpired after Khwela Investment, a 100% black owned company, bought 20% into MidCity Holdings. Going forward, KhwelaCity would be responsible for all the MidCity Group’s property development. Four major developments were to follow: the ABSA Homeloans Head Office, SAPS Crime Prevention Divisions Head Office, SAPS Crime Protection Services Head Office, and Glenwood Village, a security village development.
In 2008, Barloworld Equipment mandated MidCity to find an existing facility that could be converted into a residence for trainees attending the Barloworld Equipment Technical Training Centre (BETTC). Not only did MidCity find a facility literally across the road from the Centre, but the project was also completed within six months, well before projected finish date.
In 2010, after more than 25 years in the industry, MidCity relocated to the MidCity Square. With roughly 100 staff members, the company outgrew their offices and now occupied approximately 2 000 m2 office space. This development would later grow into the MidCity Precinct, consisting of MidCity Square, MidCity Corner, Campus Edge and Reitz Edge. Located in Sunnyside East in Pretoria, the development was sure to give the suburb a boost and it hoped to spark a regeneration of other buildings in the area. Amidst these developments, MidCity proceeded to take over Wierda Property Services, CSTM (Constantia Sectional Title Management) and Mamre Property Management.
Shortly before the Groups 30th anniversary, MidCity’s Property Broking division concluded its biggest sales transactions in the history of the group, involving the sale of three commercial buildings (to the value of R431 million) to the Dipula Property fund.
In 2013 the MidCity Group commissioned a rebranding and brand rejuvenation project. The four cornerstones in the MidCity brand remained unchanged but the green colour was replaced by bright yellow.
The 2010s were characterised by MidCity branching out to student housing and city living, a project targeting the inner-city residential market and the development of the Fleurenville Assisted Living and Care Centre. In 2016, still in keeping with the student housing trend, MidCity developed the Festival’s Edge building. The building was completed in 2016 and ready for occupation by students in 2017.
Bottom line success aside, one of the most remarkable characteristics of MidCity through the years has been its commitment the social wellbeing of their employees. A week seldom goes by without a celebration or social event to acknowledge an individual or group success, progress towards growth or to support the business relationships that have brought the company this far.
The first 35 years of MidCity formed a solid foundation for what was to come in the years leading up to the company’s 40th anniversary, being celebrated on 1 September 2023. Through visionary leadership, a brilliant team and the company’s “four non-negotiables” being firmly in place, the group can only reach new heights. Keep a lookout for our next article highlighting where the MidCity Property Group finds itself from 2018 until today!