Constantia property area is known to be one of the most beautiful valleys in the Western Cape. Historically, it is the first wine growing region of the country. At one end of the valley the suburb of Tokai and on the other Alphen with many historical properties in between.
In 1685 Simon van Der Stel settled in the valley and started planting orchards and grapes. Today the valley boasts five, world renowned, wine farms Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia, Buitenverwachting, Uitsig and Steenberg.
The original Vin de Constance, which was popular with European kings and emperors, is still produced today, however not at Groot Constantia but at Klein Constantia. On each of these farms, one will find a building of historical value; these buildings are of traditional Cape Dutch architecture, gabled white walls with thatch roofs.
Groot Constantia probably being the most well known of the estates, stretches up the mountain slopes and can be seen from most vantage points around the valley. Each of the farms, have a unique history, they were owned by different families, although most of the families were linked in one way or another.
As the farms prospered, labour was imported to work the farms. Many of the slaves were Muslim and the farmers and the labourer's lives became intertwined resulting in many slaves taking on the name of the owner. In the mid 20th century, the increasing urbanization caused a lot of farms to start breaking up into smaller properties.
Surrounding the farms, the properties that have been subdivided are of varying sizes. Constantia has strict zoning criteria, with the minimum erf size being 1350m². There are sections where the minimum erf size is 2000m² and further sections where the minimum erf size is 8000m² or 2 acres. The area is well watered, there are a number of streams running through and, it is verdant and lush, with many walking trails and open spaces. The larger properties often have stables so it is not unusual to see riders and horses on the greenbelts and walkways. The gardens, many of them, old and established, are surrounded by mature, oaks, pines and plain trees.
The valley is now an eclectic mix of old and new, big and small. There are a number of gated security estates, with Silverhurst being the largest. The properties within Silverhurst range from 1350m² to 4000m² with strict building parameters. There are other smaller gated estates which vary in size and style, from compact townhouses to large modern family homes. Alphen, one of the original farms, with its typical Cape Dutch Manor House, wine cellars and barn, built around a "werf", has now been turned into a Hotel. Alongside the property is a complex of the "ultimate" townhouses. They are triple storey, with underground parking, 24 hour security and have the convenience of the hotel next door.
The commercial hub of Constantia is "The Village". A group of buildings built in the Cape Vernacular style, housing two supermarkets, banks, and a pharmacy, a number of speciality stores, a petrol station, post office and restaurants. There is a smaller complex at High Constantia with a speciality fish shop, equestrian shop and two restaurants. Constantia sports centre, on the Main road, has a cricket pitch, tennis courts, bowling greens, a Virgin Active Gym and is adjacent to False Bay rugby club.
It is a twenty minute drive into the city on the M3 motorway or the route around the mountain along Rhodes Drive passing Kirstenbosch one can use the route around. The Main Road, bisects Constantia and is 15 minutes away from picturesque Hout Bay. Schools are located in nearby Wynberg, Claremont, the American International School in Constantia Hills, or Reddam House in Tokai. There are a number of pre-schools in the area. The Hohenhort Hotel, with its beautiful gardens and the Alphen Hotel are popular with overseas tourists who use this as a base to tour the peninsula. Constantiaberg Hospital as well as dentists and veterinarians are in close proximity.
Somehow it seems the Constantia valley and man, were waiting for each other: the land is ideal for vineyards, and man by nature is most contented when he lives close to the cultivation of grapes. Constantia today is characterised by increasing subdivision and diminishing acres of rural land. A number of developments are being built, and the traffic is noticeably heavier than before. But it's still Constantia and, by urban standards, fairly rural. There are many stately homesteads unseen from the road or at the end of long driveways, oak-lined country lanes, paddocks with horses, and the vineyards of the Constantia wine route.
Constantia has class! The "old money" sophistication and style can be felt in the breeze as you walk across green belts and drive past the national flags of embassies and diplomatic missions. Those who are after nouveau riche glitz would be more comfortable looking at properties in other parts of Cape Town. Constantia is roughly divided into two areas.
The first is Upper Constantia, bordered in the north by Bishopscourt, to the west by Constantia Nek, in the east by the M3, and to the south by the Tokai Forest and Spaanschemat River Road. Much of what's considered ‘old' Constantia is found here, along roads such as Southern Cross Drive (nicknamed ‘ambassadorial drive') and Monterey Drive, and in Sillery, Pagasvlei, and Groot and Klein Constantia roads. Developments in Upper Constantia have primarily been accommodated in the Brommaert Avenue and Alphen area. The second area - Lower or Rural Constantia - lies in a triangle between Spaanschemat River Road and Ladies Mile Road. Much development is taking place in this area, which offers a fair amount of vacant residential land.
Until the 1960's, Constantia was largely horse and wine country, interspersed by large, elegant homesteads. About 40 years ago, certain farms in lower Constantia were subdivided. Subdivision in the Bel Ombre area also started 40 years ago, and about 16 years ago development started in the Silverhurst Estate. Today Silverhurst Estate is one of the most sought-after security estates in the Cape. The newest wave of development began about five years ago.
Increasingly, people are leading busy lives and don't want the responsibility of large grounds to maintain. They love the rural life in Constantia, opting to purchase smaller properties here rather than closer to town. Mike Greeff says that it all started to change with the building of private schools, and new shopping complexes in Constantia and Tokai. "More people wanted to move out of the city. New office parks in Wynberg and Westlake further increased demand." The area offers a number of excellent hotels, guesthouses and restaurants, a nearby golf course, and quick access to beaches, nature trails and the M3 motorway.
‘Constantia is still rural,' here you can live close to the original vineyards where some of South Africa's finest wines are produced. Certain areas allow horses to be kept and it's not uncommon to see riders on the varied bridle trails. However, if you're thinking of buying a tract of old farmland to subdivide and build a security complex, you're in for a battle for approval. The Constantia Property Owners Association is very strict on subdivision. Restrictions also extend to commercial space. Many Constantia residents are A-income earners who want to be near the area's excellent private schools and raise their families in a semi-rural setting.
Although buyers are predominantly South African, there's also interest from Britain, various European and African countries, and the United States. Local agents don't believe that the number of foreign homeowners in Constantia should ever be an issue. There is a perception that half of Constantia is occupied by foreigners but this is nonsense. There have been a number of famous - and infamous - foreign residents but the vast majority of property owners are South African. The mix of property sizes is broad. In Upper Constantia, these can range from 1350m2 to 8 000m2. Prices range from R3.5million for an average family home, right up to those selling above the R20-million mark. In Rural Constantia, plots range from around 700m2 to 2 000m2, with homes selling from R2.5 million up to R5 million and sometimes more. Constantia represents great value at current prices because plot sizes are much larger than those in the rest of the Southern Suburbs.
The intrinsic value of the land has not yet been realised. As the Southern Suburbs become increasingly dense, Constantia will become even more valuable because of its position and large plot sizes. A home in Upper Constantia which sold for R1.8 million in 1988 traded for R20 million in 2006. Makes one think, doesn't it?
Owning a property in the Constantia valley, gives one a feeling of owning part of the history of the Cape.