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Steyn City is a South African gem which not only provides a unique lifestyle for its residents, but also ensures that the surrounding communities are able to benefit from their success. CEO and co-founder of Steyn City Properties, Giuseppe Plumari, sat down for an interview with Ralph Staniforth to discuss what this major undertaking means to him, why people are flocking to the parkland residence, what the future holds, and much more.

Over a decade ago, the breaking of ground started on a development that would go on to become one of Gauteng and South Africa’s greatest property icons: Steyn City.

Steyn City, which stretches across 2 000 acres of lush and verdant indigenous parkland, is a new genre of South African city living, which offers mixed-use residential options, including apartments, clusters, and free-standing homes.

South Africans now have access to a unique and unparalleled lifestyle.

The legends behind the scenes

The idea to create something as impressive as Steyn City was the brainchild of Douw Steyn, with the creativity, determination and sheer chutzpah of property developer Giuseppe Plumari.

Douw Steyn wanted to create a legacy project and called upon his long-time friend, Plumari to help him roll out the masterplan, who together saw an opportunity to create a city like no other. Their shared vision was of a community where people spent time talking rather than texting and where families and friends relished their hours together—for generations to come.

Those who have had the privilege of working alongside Plumari will know him as a man of vision; a man whose energy makes one truly believe in the saying, ”If you can dream it, you can achieve it”.

Perhaps driven by his own upbringing in a large Italian family, Plumari was moved to create the kind of community where families flourish, and which is supported by the values that families share. The ideas he developed to make this a reality were creative and innovative, certainly, but far more noteworthy is the dedication and passion he invested in making it happen.

Plumari, who has more than 40 years’ experience in property development, swiftly became known at Steyn City Properties as someone who would take the time to greet every staff member; who would personally walk the development to find areas of improvement, then brainstorm how to address them; and who would meet with every single stakeholder, whether a government official, contractor, community representative, team member or resident.

Single-minded in the pursuit of his goal, tenacious and relentless, it is not surprising that he has been able to overcome every obstacle encountered as he worked to establish Steyn City as a one-of-a-kind, leading lifestyle estate, and, in the process, create a legacy project for Steyn that stands as testimony to his own foresight, focus, and determination.

That legacy project has not just been created to provide a better lifestyle for those who live within its boundaries, but was seen as the perfect opportunity to give back to those who need it most.

Plumari, explains: ”Douw Steyn is an extremely successful businessman in the insurance sector in South Africa, the United Kingdom, Australia, and other parts of the world, but this is the country of his birth and this is where he wanted to leave his legacy. He wanted to build a lifestyle estate which carried his name; a lifestyle estate that means that his memory will live as long as people call Steyn City home.”

“He is passionate about his country, just as I am, so we have done a lot to empower the communities in our surroundings. Over the years we have created more than 28 000 jobs for the community of Diepsloot, which has made a big difference.”

The evolution of an iconic project

The land for the proposed Steyn City development was first acquired by Plumari in 1994. Initially earmarked for industrial development, when Douw Steyn saw the tract of land, he knew it was where he wanted to develop his legacy project. After Plumari had acquired about 200 hectares of the land, this prompted Steyn to acquire the remaining tracts of about 800 hectares.

The development kicked off with a Steyn City ground-breaking ceremony, attended by former President Nelson Mandela, in September 2007. Mandela was a close friend to Steyn.

Two years later, Golf Data broke ground on the Nicklaus-design 18-hole championship golf course, and by 2011, construction on Phase 1’s infrastructure commenced. The Steyn City Golf Course, which has been nicknamed the ‘Augusta of South Africa’, was officially launched in October 2014, with the opening of the clubhouse taking place at the same time.

In 2015, Steyn City was officially launched to the public.

This auspicious milestone was marked by an opening event—including a tree planting ceremony, attended by dignitaries such as the then Premier of Gauteng Province David Makhura, Councilor Parks Mpho Tau, a former Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, and former First Lady Graca Machel.

Further landmarks include the opening of Steyn City’s Equestrian Centre in September 2015, the introduction of ‘65 on Park’—60 three-bedroom lock up and go cluster homes, in 2017, the launch of the Steyn City School’s Early Years Centre and Preparatory School in 2018, and the unveiling of the Aquatic Centre, also in 2018.

The following year saw plenty of activity, with the launch of the children’s Dino Park, the completion of Capital Park’s first office building, and the pre-launch of the 104 on Creek—a 105 luxury two- and three-bedroom apartment development, in May.

In October 2019, Steyn City Properties unveiled its innovative Vision 2020, pre-announcing the launch of City Centre, and a 300m lagoon and Steyn City Ultimate Helistop.

The final highlight of 2019 was the release of over 100 selected stands in Phase II’s new suburb, The Village, which took place in November 2019.

In 2020, Steyn City School saw the opening of its college, accommodating learners from Grade 000 through to Matric.

Then came a hiatus in construction due to strict COVID lockdowns. Activity at Steyn City the following year more than made up for this brief break, as 2021 saw the launch of three of the development’s key landmarks: the Steyn City Ultimate Helistop, the 300m lagoon (with its full range of facilities) and Phase 1 of the flagship City Centre.

During this time, Steyn City was a proud partner in a private-public partnership which saw it invest one third of the funds required for the upgrade of the major arterial route William Nicol (R511), which was opened in August 2015.

In 2016, the upgraded Cedar Road was opened, with the second phase of the latter’s upgrade uncovered in June 2016. This remarkable investment marked a pioneering public-private partnership with the government, and included the construction of new roads, sewerage, water, and other basic services.

Construction of Phase II of William Nicol (R511) through to the N14 highway is imminent.

A safe place to live

It is one thing to preach all the good things when it comes to a project you have overseen since the very beginning, but it is an entirely different thing altogether to actually live that lifestyle.

For Plumari, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

He and his senior management all live in Steyn City, as do other employees, and contribute toward the lifestyle which Steyn himself dreamt of all those years ago.

”My senior colleagues and I, we live here, we live our lives here. This is where we want to be. I mean, that’s clearly the most reassuring thing for any investor or future resident, right? We put our money where our mouth is, guaranteeing long term success.

On the subject of investment, Plumari reveals that since opening its doors to the public, the return on land sales at Steyn City has been above 20% over that period. Those are impressive numbers when you consider that the property sector has been somewhat flatlining.

While not everyone will be able to afford to purchase property within Steyn City despite offering a mix of property types to reach a wider audience, there is a booming rental market within the parkland residence.

Plumari believes that renting a property is the perfect way for people to get a taste of what Steyn City has to offer—which could in future convert them into permanent residents.

”The ability to rent in Steyn City has been positively received. I think the higher interest rate is playing advantageously for a rental option and it will be great as an entry point to come and live in Steyn City with the rental pool. This is an easy way for people to come and start living in Steyn City,” he says.

One potential deterrent for buyers in any estate or development is levies, as these are often extremely pricey and don’t often translate into the proper upkeep of your surroundings.

While Steyn City owners are required to pay levies, Plumari says that they are competitively priced—with the upkeep of Steyn City benefitting from them.

”Our levies are very competitive, especially compared to other similar developments. We are going to be focusing on maintaining that status quo and at the same time we want to be able to improve the facilities that we have. So, we want to remain competitive in the levy space,” Plumari says.

A sad reality in South Africa is that crime is a problem.

With that in mind, it has always been a priority of Steyn City to ensure the safety of all those who live in and enjoy the parkland residence. The very notion of living in an environment where you never have to think twice about personal safety or about the protection of your property has always been central to Steyn City’s vision.

Plumari explains: ”Let’s face it, security is top of mind to the majority of people around South Africa. It is a cornerstone to ensure a relaxed lifestyle and to live in comfort. So, we have gone to great lengths to have very good perimeter security, state of the art technology cameras, visual recognition, and number plate recognition for 24 hours a day.

”Our perimeter security is second to none, our security in general is second to none. That creates freedom of movement within our 2 000 acres of parkland, 45 kilometres of pedestrianised promenades where people can walk to every corner of the parkland. I think it is a game changer which has been a focus from the very beginning.”

A lifestyle of choice

Can you imagine a life without relying on your car for the most basic activities?

Well, that’s one of the major pros of living in Steyn City.

Then throw in the fact that your children can walk to school without you worrying about their safety—and you have the type of lifestyle which we all dream of.

Plumari’s work has essentially created a blueprint for how developments should be built, where the priority is on pedestrians and not on cars.

”At the end of the day, the way we have taken the car out of our everyday lives and focused on pedestrianising Steyn City, I think that is contributing to the well-being of the residents. In due course, I am absolutely convinced that it will be recognised as a place where community living is off the charts and that sense of belonging is paramount. I have worked very hard to create this sense of community living, which I think is a game changer,” Plumari says with pride.

The security and ease of living aspects are what make Steyn City so desired by property owners.

These two primary reasons are the backbone of the community spirit among residents and make for an environment which breeds positivity and togetherness.

On why people opt to live within Steyn City, Plumari offers an example which many of us will be familiar with: ”If you think back to when you were a youngster, in most cases your parents wouldn’t have let you out of the home to go to the café, not because of crime, but because they were concerned you were going to get run over. Within Steyn City, I have got seven of my grandchildren living here and I can tell you they walk to school, they come and visit me along the pathways. From a lifestyle perspective, it’s life changing, just the freedom of all the facilities and the safety which goes with it.”

The City Centre

Once in a lifetime, a development comes around that’s so unique, it changes the way you look at lifestyle and property investment.

City Centre, Steyn City’s pioneering flagship project, is that development. Once again, the developers stayed true to Douw’s instruction of ensuring all facilities (except for the lagoon and Ultimate Helistop) had already been developed before the product was launched to the market. Thus, the City Centre is being built in its entirety and with over 700 luxury apartment homes, this is no small feat.

Every single element of these luxury residences has been planned to offer families, professionals, couples, and businesspeople all the space and comfort to live life to the fullest.

The adjacent 300m lagoon, which is complete with water slides, kayaks, SUP boards, and a snack kiosk, is the best place to enjoy summer days—giving you all the benefits of a pool and garden without the maintenance.

Envisaged as a modern take on urban living, City Centre is an entirely pedestrianised development. Residents can walk freely through the interlinking courtyard piazzas, each of which is densely treed and will soon be lined with bespoke retail shops and restaurants that imbue a vibrant atmosphere and give rise to a sense of community.

To date, close to 60 units have been sold within the City Centre, which is a pretty impressive feat given the economic climate at this time, but with more available, Plumari does not anticipate that they will be vacant for too long.

”I think in the next few years you’re going to see a sense of belonging that people haven’t seen for many, many years. You know, the only people that really can enjoy that sense of belonging are remote little villages where the car is not so prominent. Unfortunately, with the big cities, because everything is out of the way, it’s either a taxi or a car and it is busy on the roads, so people don’t get to walk around. The result is that you don’t get to meet your neighbours, you don’t get to make new friends by walking around, and I think it is a sad place that we are evolving to. I think this type of development is going to create that sense of belonging, sense of community living that I think everybody strives for and longs for.”

Helping the community and environment

When Steyn and Plumari first started planning Steyn City, two aspects were non-negotiable: ensuring that the local community was supported as much as possible and the carbon footprint of the development did not put any extra pressure on climate change.

”Amongst my greatest achievements is having a huge focus on making a difference to our surrounding communities in Diepsloot by creating thousands of jobs. We opened a labour desk that has employed thousands of people. You know, the benefit to the community hasn’t just been in job creation, but to create jobs virtually on their doorstep,” Plumari avers.

”We’ve been criticised at times for having built this magnificent lifestyle development near Diepsloot, but I think this has been misplaced. I think that is where people should be developing, close to communities. A struggling community can benefit from the job creation and the proximity has really put huge amounts of money as a percentage of the income in their pockets, where they can literally walk to work and they can save a substantial amount of the income that they would otherwise have had to spend to get to work.

”So in a way we have made a difference to those people’s lives and not only on a monetary side, but can you imagine the difference where normally a lot of the people in needy communities have got to travel for two hours just to get to work and then two hours back, now you know you’ve got four hours that they can spend with their families and improving their quality of life, and so on. So, I think that has been by far the proudest thing that I have done with this development that we have created.”

In terms of the fight against climate change, plans were devised to reverse any impact caused by the development, with the planting of trees an important facet of that.

The result has been better than anyone imagined. Natural beauty has been restored to the area.

Plumari explains: ”One of the first things we initiated before we broke ground was we started planting—from seeds, millions of trees and shrubs that are endemic to this area. I am extremely proud to say we have turned what used to be a quarry and a very disturbed environment into what is starting to look like a forest. It looks magnificent.

”And you know what? We’re not going to stop doing that. We are going to keep on adding. The bird and animal life is mind boggling as a result. It is phenomenal, and I am very proud to have done that. We had the vision and we acted on that, and I think we have delivered on that.”

The future of Steyn City

As of 2022, the infrastructure of Steyn City is pretty much in place.

However, there is always room to grow by adding innovative ideas to the existing backbone of the parkland residence. Growth will also be dependent on the demand for housing or infrastructure within Steyn City, so there is no cap right now on potential future developments.

An example of demand for growth comes in the shape of Capital Park, which is an office park designed to make it easier for the homeowners to work closer to home.

Plumari adds: ”What’s still to come of significance are the medical facilities for residents and outsiders. We are also working on a home health care option as well as a frail care centre for ageing homeowners. We’re also planning several retail outlets – and we’ve recently launched a point-to-point transfer service which is safer than your established hailing services.

”We’re looking into padel courts for our lagoon. I think that’s becoming a very popular sport, so we want our residents to have the benefit of that in the parkland.

”We’re going to keep on striving to do more for the community of Steyn City, as we’ve always stated, we will not stop until we are hands down the best lifestyle estate in the world.”

In terms of the number of people who make up the community of Steyn City, the target right now is 2 000 homeowners. That will grow in time, depending on demand, which Plumari explains: ”We’ve got quite extensive rights that run into a few thousand homes, but I think our goal now is 2 000. We’ve got close to six hundred families here right now.”

The end of an era

After recent surgery, Plumari will be stepping down as CEO in the new year to allow him more quality time with his family.He is currently handing over the reins to Steven Louw, the current deputy CEO, whom Plumari confides is highly accomplished with outstanding business acumen and experience, and already closely engaged with the accomplished teams on the ground to ensure a smooth transition when he does leave his position, but one thing he wanted to make very clear was that his involvement with Steyn City is far from over.

Plumari insists: ”Our investors are in good hands. Our executive team has been working alongside me for many years now and I won’t be retiring completely. I will still be part of the board as deputy-Chairman, and I will still have my eye on the ball with a particular focus on new projects and the design elements, to ensure Douw’s vision. I’ve been the creative person that has put together this legacy project for Douw Steyn. The legacy is his, but from my side is the sense of achievement that I think I have ticked all the boxes and I have delivered on his brief. I am convinced we’ve got the best lifestyle estate in the country.”

We look forward to seeing what comes next from Steyn City and the dedicated team working hard to ensure that community comes first.

The Steyn City Foundation

In a bid to continue their support for the local community, the Steyn City Foundation was created.

The Steyn City Foundation is involved in a number of initiatives aiming to uplift the community through employment and skills development, such as a labour desk and on-site skills training centre which specialised in plastering, bricklaying, and tiling for the first five years of the infrastructure phase.

0.5% of all developer sales go directly to the Foundation.

The Foundation’s flagship project, Delivering Happiness to Diepsloot, provides a Festive Season boost to Diepsloot’s primary school learners with deliveries of stationery, sweets, school shoes, and school bags.

During the uncertain times of the COVID-19 lockdowns, the Steyn City Foundation ensured that there was food on the table by donating 3 000 packages of fresh, nutrient-rich, immune-boosting fruits and vegetables to the local community every week.

The suburbs of Steyn City

Steyn City is currently home to seven suburbs, each catering to different needs.

• Park Ridge: Peace and tranquility are the hallmarks of this Steyn City suburb. Situated on a west-facing slope, residents have beautiful views over the parklands and golf course.

• The Views: This magnificent village derives its name from the gorgeous views of Johannesburg and Sandton to the south.

• The Lakes: These beautiful stands and houses take in the sight of serene waterways, creeks, and inland dams.

• Fairways Valley: Take your pick of a house or freehold stand alongside the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed championship golf course.

• River View: An obvious choice for those who yearn for a connection with nature, this exquisite suburb is traversed by an often rushing river and overlooks verdant greenbelts.

• The Village 1 & 2: Ideal for growing families, The Village 1 & 2 are located directly opposite the Steyn City School campus.

CEO Giuseppe Plumari walks elbow to elbow to distribute food parcels

Who is Giuseppe Plumari?

CEO of Steyn City Properties, Giuseppe Plumari, is a businessman and entrepreneur with immense experience.

One of six siblings, Milan-born Plumari was 10 years old when his family moved to South Africa.

Plumari received his first taste of the property industry after leaving school, following in his father’s footsteps who was also in the building industry. He went on to establish himself as one of the industry’s most successful businessmen and entrepreneurs.

Two like-minded entrepreneurs, Plumari met Douw Steyn when he was working in construction and had been contracted to build the business tycoon’s mansion. The meeting would lead to a critical turning point, as the two later became partners in the development of Steyn City. Before then, however, Plumari honed his knowledge and understanding of developments, shifting his focus from alterations and the construction of luxury homes to small scale developments in the commercial and residential property sectors.

His career took another twist when he bought his first piece of land on deed of sale. With no funds for a deposit, he purchased first one stand and then two more. This was the first of his own developments. After this, he embarked on a long-term strategy which saw him purchase land on deed of sale in areas located on existing arterial routes, which he believed would become future nodes. For the next 40 years, he focused on investing in these corridors, buying raw land and obtaining rights. It was during this period that Steyn recognised his strategy and invested into his company.

Knowing that Steyn had long harboured a dream of creating a unique leisure residential address and a legacy project, Plumari showed him one of these tracts of land, situated north of Fourways in Gauteng. He believed this area would be the ideal location for Steyn’s venture—thus the concept of Steyn City was born.

Years of careful planning ensured that Steyn City is able to offer a lifestyle like no other, which all South Africans can enjoy. At the heart of this lifestyle is a return to community living: in contrast to modern suburbs, which have become isolated islands from a sea of traffic, the parkland’s suburbs are developed according to older principles, where cities were built for people and pedestrians.

Plumari and Steyn were instrumental in initiating one of South Africa’s first public-private partnerships, working with the government to develop regional infrastructure that would become the catalyst for growth in the region. Steyn City Properties has been acknowledged as a model for public-private partnerships in this country.

Plumari’s creative flair has seen him become the driving force behind a strong team of architects and other professionals. The team meets regularly to ensure they remain true to the original vision of Douw’s dream.

The scope of the duo’s achievement has been acknowledged by accomplishments such as wealth intelligence firm New World Wealth’s ranking of Steyn City as the top residential estate in Gauteng in 2019. A year later, the same firm named it one of the top ten lifestyle estates in the world.

Plumari has also received significant individual awards. In 2017, he was named Business Person of the Year at the Nedbank Business Excellence Awards, hosted by the Italian-South Africa Chamber of Commerce and Industries, in honour of his contribution to the economic growth of South Africa.

The fact that Plumari has chosen to make his home at Steyn City speaks volumes about his commitment to the development, and his hope that other families will be able to enjoy the same sense of freedom.

A devoted family man, Plumari’s warmth and passion manifest in his attention to detail as he builds a development that will become a blueprint for others on the continent and around the globe; one that is recognised as the best lifestyle estate in the world.

While it is true that South Africa will unlikely see another development like Steyn City in our lifetime – simply because there is no land of similar scale available on the urban edge, nor is it likely an investment of this magnitude will be made – it’s equally true to say that it is thanks to Plumari’s singular passion, practical leadership and perseverance that this unparalleled development has come into being.

Ralph Staniforth

By Editor