Category Archives: Webarticles

Articles written for the web.

What every Potential Home Buyer should ask an Agent

fetchimageSo you’ve made your calculations with your home loan calculator and you’re out there viewing houses and getting all excited about what you see. At some point you’re going to have opportunity to talk about the house you’re interested in with the agent. If you’re anything like me you sit staring at the agent with mouth open like a guppy and your best questions dribbles down your chin as they gush madly about the house in question. Then you drive home confidently reciting some the most incisive questions know to man. Perhaps you should come prepared.

 Don’t be afraid to ask questions, you’ve gone to the trouble of using your home loan repayment calculator, don’t hold back with your research now. Whether you are looking to rent or buy you will be parting with a significant sum of money and you are well within your rights to have any of your questions answered.

Here are some important questions you should ask the agent before you sign on the dotted line. They are not necessarily in any particular order.

What are the rates? 
This will help you calculate your budget should you want to look at making an offer for the property.

Is there a levy? 
This is a particularly important question to ask if you are looking at a flat within a residential block or a unit in a sectional title complex.

How long has the property been available?
The longer the property has been on the market the more likely that it is overpriced or has some other problem. Having this information empowers you when it comes to negotiating a price – for example, if it’s been on the market for a while, the vendor or landlord is likely to be keen to come to a deal and so may settle for less than the asking price.

Why is the property available?
Hopefully the answer will be something that is not related to the standard of the property. For instance, if the current residents are looking to move because they have out grown their home or need to relocate then consider if you would be in the same position if you moved in.

How long did you/the previous owners/tenants live here?
The longer the better. If there have been many different residents in a short period of time, why did they not stay longer?

Has there been any recent improvement work on the property? 
Recent work can be viewed both as positive and negative. If the house has just had new windows or guttering that may be a plus. However, if it has been underpinned to prevent subsidence this may prove to be a significant negative.

Is there a neighbourhood watch?
While the answer won’t necessarily tell you how safe the neighbourhood is, you should get a good idea if neighbours look out for each other if there is an active scheme in place.

What are the neighbours like?
Although you are unlikely to be told directly that you are set to move next to neighbours from hell, the reaction you get from the landlord or homeowner should give you some idea what the local residents are like. Does she run a trombone recital club or a day care? Does he service cars or use loud power tools all day?

How many viewings have they had?
More viewings indicate a greater interest in the property, however, if none of the viewings have resulted in an offer does this show that it is too expensive or has another issue. Again, getting this information also gives you more ammunition for price negotiations.

What is the local traffic like?
This is especially important to ask if you have to commute to work by car. Again it’s unlikely that they will complain about heavy traffic but you may pick up some clues in the answer as to whether there is a problem.

When is the noisiest time of the day?
Any mention of aircraft or traffic noise? Is the house on a minibus taxi route or near a taxi rank? What about proximity of shops, clubs and restaurants that may have high noise volumes at certain times of day.

How old is the roof? 
Firstly, are there leaks and where? Roofs only last for a limited time so it’s worth checking just how old the current one is. The older the roof the more likely it will need work, which may be quite costly.

When was the last time the geyser needed repairs or has been replaced? 
Geysers sometimes malfunction due to electrical faults or water pressure issues. Is the current geyser under guarantee?

Has the property ever been burgled?
Unfortunately if a property has been burgled in the past it can often be revisited again. If they have been burgled on more than one occasion then it’s even more likely that it will reoccur. It’s also a good idea to ask what security measures the property is fitted with – for instance an alarm.

Are there any issues that I need to know about?
Certain problems, such as if a property has been underpinned for subsidence, must be legally declared, however asking this question should ensure you know if there is anything else that you’re not being told. Ask about rising damp and faulty drains.

How old is the septic tank?
Not all South African towns have waterborne sewerage. Septic tanks have a life span and they often need draining. They are also attacked by nearby roots. Ask to see where the tank is in the garden and look how closely trees are planted.

How far is the property from local amenities? 
Can you easily walk or drive to everything you need without a problem?

This list is by no mean exhaustive but they all make up a body of research that you began when using your bond calculator. Keep in mind that agents are paid to put the best face on a property not to be dishonest. Most agents may be honest about most things but they are unlikely to volunteer information that will paint the house in a bad light. So take your list of questions with you and write down the answers as you hear them. Happy house hunting.

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Negotiating a Better Price for Your New Home

Here are four important considerations when negotiating the asking price of your prospective home so you can bring down the monthly repayments you calculated with your bond calculator.Picture

Probably the biggest purchase you’re likely to make is a house. So bringing down the asking price even a couple of per cent will save you thousands of Rands.

Here are our 4 easy methods of negotiating down the price of the property you have your eye on.

  1. Start low

It may be that you have to put in an offer on the property before you get any reaction from the seller.

If this is the case put in an offer below what you worked out using your bond calculator, this will then allow you to up your offer at a later date which will then seem more attractive to the seller.

It’s also wise to explain your offer; state exactly what work the house needs and how much it will cost, or that other properties of a higher standard went for less than the listed price nearby.

Explaining your offer in this way not only makes the seller think twice about their valuation but also makes you appear serious about purchasing the property by showing that you haven’t simply plucked a number out of mid air.

2.View thoroughly

In reality you can often tell quite quickly if you like a property or whether you don’t ever want to set foot in the house again. However, if you are interested you shouldn’t get swept away with the excitement of finding somewhere you’d want to live.

Any flaws or work that need doing represent an opportunity to knock some money off your offer price. So taking the time to thoroughly inspect the property, inside and out, could give you the ammunition you need to negotiate.

Estimate the cost of any work required and take this amount off your offer price – you’ll be justified in doing so.

You should also find out whether there are likely to be any major expenses in the near future – ask when the geyser was last serviced and when the roof was last repaired (or resurfaced if it’s flat). Again, if work is likely to be needed in the near future you have a legitimate reason to go in with a lower price.

You should also consider whether parts of the property need redecorating and how much this might cost and factor this into your negotiations.

  1. Ask for extras

If the person selling the house isn’t willing to budge on price then you may want to negotiate over the additional costs you face when buying.

It’s estimated that the cost of actually purchasing a house can easily exceed £5,000 when you consider legal fees, valuations fees and surveys.

Asking that the seller contribute towards these fees could be a good way to cut the cost of purchasing the property and save hundreds or possibly thousands of Rands – even if you don’t manage a reduction in that actual house price.

  1. Do your research

You’ve already done some research by using your bond calculator, now consider researching the  ‘going rate’ for other properties in the same area.

If you can argue that the asking price is above what similar properties sold for nearby, you will have a strong case for a reduction in price.

You should also check the asking price of other properties currently on the market and see what they offer in terms of space, features and presentation.

  • If other properties are of a similar standard but the asking price is higher, then the owners of the property you’re looking at could be struggling, or in a hurry to sell – both of which could work in your favour when negotiating over the price.
  • If other properties are of a higher standard but going for an equal or lower price you need to question whether they’d be a better investment than the one you’re currently looking at.
  • If other properties are of a similar standard but are on the market for less than the property you want to buy, you can use this to your negotiating advantage.

If you think the property is overpriced mention it to the estate agent – they may feed this back to the owners who could drop the price of their own accord.

Ask the agent how many viewings the property has had and whether it’s received any previous offers. If there hasn’t been a great deal of interest, it gives you licence to go in with a lower bid when you start negotiating.

If you discover that the property has had lots of viewings but no offers then quiz the estate agent about why they think this is the case and use this knowledge to your advantage.

You could also ask for certain things, such as curtains and appliances to be left by the current owners to reduce your set up costs even further.

After you’ve gone to the trouble of using a bond calculator to work out your monthly repayments that price you can afford, then you’ve shown intent and are ready to negotiate. Be strong and don’t back down – remember you’re the customer and you hold most of the cards. Don’t be afraid to consider the points above when proceeding with your house purchase enquiries.

Backleasing, Backsliding, Boom or Bust

images (1)

Cell-C-tower

Cell C, South Africa’s third Cellular operator is now a tenant in 960 towers that they used to own! Huh? It’s true, it’s called a sale-leaseback or backleasing and that’s an investment that may interest you.

American Tower Corporation purchased, through its South African subsidiary Helios, 329 more telecommunications towers from Cell C for R965 million bringing the total to 960. American Tower will is  acquiring up to 1,800 additional towers currently under construction..

Cell C is now an anchor tenant on each of the towers purchased, and its relationship with American Tower is  enabling it to further enhance the quality and coverage of its cellular network.

So what exactly is a sale-leaseback when it’s at home in front of the fire? A sale leaseback option allows a company to sell its assets and lease them back simultaneously. This can be beneficial for businesses that are in need of an inflow of capital.

This practice isn’t new at all. In France it’s been popular for over thirty years. In other Western economies it’s widespread and its trends generally flow from the US.

Originally, sale and leaseback transactions were only applied to tangible assets, such as property, plant, machinery and equipment. However, since the mid–1990’s, its application has increasingly been extended to incorporeal property, including trademarks, patents, designs, copyright and know-how. When applied to intellectual property, the leaseback and associated rental payments are more correctly referred to as licence and royalties, respectively. But we’ll focus on leasebacks in property in this article.

download (3)Looking at world trends first: sale-leaseback’s in the US were at their highest in 2007 when $16.1 billion in sale-leaseback properties traded hands. Transactions have increased over the past 18 months. After hitting a low of $3.7 billion in 2009, nearly $4 billion in sales closed last year and another $2.6 billion had occurred this year so far.

In the US a set of rules was set up to guide such transactions by the Financial Accounting Standards Board in 2003. Crafted after the Enron disaster to force most off-balance-sheet financing back onto the books, these rules are expected to encourage many companies to convert, once popular, but now discredited, “synthetic leases” by which companies maintained control of the property while gaining tax benefits,  into more legitimate “true leases,” such as sale-leasebacks and net-leases.

Companies mainly used synthetic leases as a way to keep real estate debt off the balance sheet while reaping all the other benefits of owning real estate. (A synthetic lease is when the money to finance the asset is borrowed, and the lender takes a security interest against the asset, but has no further recourse against the borrower / operating company.)

There are instances in which prioritising the use of an asset is more important than wanting to own it. Usually in these situations liquidating assets would bring business operations to a standstill as the use of the asset is integral to the functionality of the enterprise.

Unlike a traditional mortgage, which often finances 70% to 80% of the property value, a sale-leaseback allows a company to get 100% of the value from the real estate.

Sale-Leasebacks can be constructed flexibly providing options to both seller and investor. Some examples would include offering a Joint Venture type involvement allowing the seller to share in a certain predetermined percentage capital growth gain in value, or structure buy-back options on certain pre-determined conditions. Investors can also provide themselves with certain down side protection.

Within this context one ought to consider the net-lease too, whereby a company finances a new location by finding third parties to buy the property and then leasing it from them. There is a surge in such transactions currently in Western Economies. It has been opinioned that this is partly because companies with weak credit ratings are finding it hard to get conventional financing and are increasingly turning to real estate as a source of cash.

However it has to be said that even solid companies with strong credit ratings are looking for ways to raise cash to retire debt and improve their financial ratios.  In fact, many of the biggest names in business — including Microsoft, and Wal-Mart have used leaseback over the years.images (7)

Bri-Anne Powell, investment consultant for Pam Golding Commercial in Gauteng is reported as saying “There are investors in the marketplace who have an appetite to purchase sale and leaseback properties, preferably industrial in nature, in visible, strategic locations. In terms of industrial property the areas of the Durban South, East Rand, Midrand and Centurion are favoured, and in regard to very large industrial properties it is preferred that these would comprise a main warehouse or factory which would be located near OR Tambo International Airport.”

Sale-leasebacks ought not to be a prospect for an investor who isn’t going to cope with the potential struggles of owning commercial real estate or an investee who can’t afford to loose his asset. If a company that’s leasing a property goes bankrupt, the court may not uphold the lease. So the’ buyer beware’!

The recipe to being a lucrative investor in sale-leasebacks is not just appropriate decision-making but to make use of one’s asset to maximum effect.  For the purchasing party to a sale-leaseback, they have acquired a property with potential for growth and a long term income flow from the lease. On the sale side of the transaction there is the liquidation of an unwanted or superfluous asset whilst retaining long term use of the same through a lease agreement.

Transnet has Big Plans for the Port of Richards Bay

01SK85-IM1001-richards-bay-1475The Port of Richards Bay is set to expand in a big way but not necessarily in the direction some would like. At a media briefing Transnet’s director of projects within the port Sudesh Maharaj announced that a R30bn Capex Plan for the port was being thrashed out.

The intention is to expand the country’s main bulk port up until 2020. Transnet is investing more than R15bn on immediate and medium to long term capacity improvement initiatives to expand and upgrade the Port of Richards Bay to ensure that the bulk port accommodates the growth in export demand.

Maharaj told the press briefing that Transnet commissioned a study in 2010 that projected demand for bulk export commodities through Richard’s Bay was expected to increase from the present throughput of 23 million tons per annum to a demand of about 50 million by 2040. Approximately 40 per cent of the volumes projected for 2040 are expected to be export coal, 25 per cent domestic coal and the balance general freight bulk.

The port is currently the location of the world’s biggest coal terminal, the privately owned Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT). Owners are Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Xstrata, Exxaro and Glencore. The terminal has a capacity to handle 91 million tons of coal a year.

The estimations are that a new terminal would be able to export 14 million tonnes annually, with the room to expand to 32 million. Currently operations are at near full capacity of 23 million tonnes a year.

R15bn was earmarked by Transnet on a new coal terminal for emerging mining companies that struggle to get access to RBCT. However Transnet was set to spend R15bn of the Capex on upgrading the general freight side of Richards Bay Port as well! This would include a container handling facility to handle approximately 100 000 TEU (Twenty-foot equivalent unit) containers a year by 2020. Maharaj doesn’t believe there is any need for a dedicated container terminal, like the one at Durban. Maharaj points out that the port already has a container handling component. He believes that the general freight expansion will bring more than enough capacity at the port for container traffic and that there is no need for a dedicated container terminal.

The Zululand Chamber of Business has been calling for a dedicated container facility at the port. However Maharaj says Durban was the main container port which would be enhanced by the dig-out port, while Coege in the Eastern Cape was a future transhipment container port.

The projects are being undertaken as part of Transnet’s market demand Strategy (MDS) which has earmarked R300bn to capacity development projects over a 7 year period.

The Capex earmarked for Richard’s Bay was for the expansion and the replacement of equipment and for new infrastructure. Maharaj said there was a major reconfiguration planned for the Port. It included expanding the handling and offloading capacity of terminals, replacing redundant equipment, reconfiguring the Bayvue Rail Yard and building a proposed new open access coal terminal to unlock coal exports for emergent miners.

Transnet is approaching the construction process with scalability in mind so that the transition from the current port design to the expanded design is seamless. Of course time will tell as to how Transnet handles the process and to what degree the Port is disrupted.

The repercussions for Richard’s Bay in general are immense. Greater capacity for the port means increased flow of freight and containers not just coal. More storage space, increased warehousing as well has tertiary services will need to increase capacity too. Richard’s Bay commercial property should see a boom as the knock-on effect is felt from the activity at the port.
{Sources: Mercury; Ports.co.za;Transportworldafrica.co.za;Sturrockshipping.com}

Crowdfunding – Will South African Real Estate Bite

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding

Is it possible that investors will second guess putting their cash into Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) in favour of Crowdfunding? Why hasn’t South Africa got a Real Estate Crowdfunding platform? Shouldn’t someone be considering it?

It may seem unlikely that anyone will waver in favour of Crowdfundings whilst pondering investing in REITs right now, especially in South Africa since no such option exists, but already in the US, Real Estate Crowdfunding platforms have emerged. For instance, Fundrise was founded by Ben and Dan Miller, who spent the last few years building up a booming commercial real estate business. Frustrated with Wall Street investors, the brothers decided to build Fundrise to democratize the process of investing in commercial real estate.

Given the novelty of Crowdfunding many remain in the dark. According to Wikipedia Crowdfunding, or hyper funding “describes the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their resources, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.” Crowdfunding is utilised widely to fund blogs, political campaigns, scientific research, start-up companies, music, the arts, as well as so called Angel Investing and now even real estate.

Ben Miller of Fundrise: “We felt that the private equity funds we looked to raise money from typically had no natural connection to the neighbourhood buildings we were developing,” So the brothers cut out the traditional middlemen and created the opportunity for direct investment. Now Ben says they believe that Fundrise “provides a platform that can revolutionize who influences neighbourhood development by giving the general public the opportunity to invest in and own local real estate and businesses.”

Forbes estimates that annual Crowdfunding transactions go as high as $500 billion annually compared to 2011’s $1.5 billion (anticipated to be $3 billion in 2012).  If Crowdfunding even begins to approach that scale, it will completely change the landscape for start-up financing.

To get one’s head around the concept of Crowdfunding a trip back in time may be required. Wiki describes Crowdfunding as having an historical antecedent in the 18th century idea of subscription. Back in the day many artists and writers found it difficult to find publishers for their books, and instead persuaded large numbers of wealthy benefactors to ‘subscribe’ in advance to their production.

Marillion

Marillion

Today Rock groups like Marillion and Electric Eel shock have funded tours and albums using Crowdfunding platforms. Independent films are booming thanks to raising funds with Crowdfunding.

In essence Crowdfunding is a form of “Micro patronage”, a system in which the public directly supports the work of others, donating via the Internet. This is as opposed to traditional patronage now many “patrons” can donate small amounts, rather than a small number of patrons making larger contributions.

Sticking with our example, how does Fundrise work? The first offering on the site allows users to buy shares in 1351 H Street NE , a restaurant location on the booming H Street Corridor in Washington DC. The building is leased to Maketto that combines a Japanese-themed culinary “night market” with a clothing boutique for DURKL, a popular DC-based street-wear company. By investing in the project, you get a portion of the 10 year lease proceeds (projected to be 8.4% year), a portion of the profits of Maketto, and a portion of the future appreciation of the building.

Allen Gannett of TNW explains about Fundrise thus: a $100 share qualifies you for Kick-starter-style rewards, as well as access to shareholder events and parties. For $1000, you get a 10% discount on all food purchases and DURKL clothes and for $10,000, you get an annual dinner prepared by their chef. By combining economic rewards with Kick-starter-style benefits, Maketto gains a population of customers who are literally invested in its success. Ben explained that “by giving the neighbourhood and potential customers the opportunity to become your partner, Fundrise creates a whole new form of brand loyalty.

Other African countries are emerging as if Crowdfunding was designed for Africa. Countries long considered on the periphery of the world economy are benefiting. “We want to get Africans into the crowdfunding space to invest in Africa’s own start-ups,” said Munyaradzi Chiura, head of GrowVC’s Africa operations in Harare, Zimbabwe to Crowdsourcing.org. “Crowdfunding is particularly suited to the African context because the amounts are small, thereby reducing the risk, and investors are not going it alone.” Projects in which “anyone can invest” could receive backing from outside Africa.

South Africa’s has an important Crowdfunding platform in Crowdinvest. Investing with the businesses it backs may allow unusual rewards: investors in a film, for example, would get walk-on roles or on-screen credits. On the other hand, it also offers more conventional schemes, with investors in small firms and start-ups getting a share of the profits or of the company’s ownership. It runs checks on any business wanting to register: “It’s not open to anyone to upload a pitch,” said CEO and founder Anton Breytenbach.  Crowdinvest returns the funds to users if the full amount sought isn’t raised, after which the project will shut down.

Barak Obama

Barak Obama

Considering that the US leads the way in so much, it’s worth noting that this year, President Barack Obama signed the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Start-ups) Act; this piece of legislation effectively lifted a previous ban against public solicitation for private companies raising funds. As of August 13, 2012, the Securities Exchange Commission has yet to set rules in place regarding equity Crowdfunding campaigns involving unaccredited investors for private companies; however, rules are expected to be set by January 1, 2013. Currently, the JOBS Act allows accredited investors to invest in equity Crowdfunding campaigns. In South Africa no such legal framework has been ventured and so far no one has challenged existing legislation that may impede the growth of Crowdfunding.

Considering the ups and downs, one has to look favourably on Crowdfunding in that it allows good ideas which do not fit the pattern required by conventional financiers to break through and attract funds through the ‘wisdom’ of the crowd. Proponents also identify a potential outcome of Crowdfunding as an exponential increase in available venture capital. On the down side, business is required to disclose the idea for which funding is sought in public at a very early stage. This exposes the marketer of the idea to the risk of the idea being copied and developed ahead of them by better-financed competitors.

So is there someone in South Africa ready to take on Crowdfunded real estate? It may not hold the lofty promise of creating high growth tech companies, but it does offer people the chance to own a piece of their neighbourhood. “Its social innovation meets investing” says Ben Miller of Fundrise. He believes that Crowdfunded real estate is providing a means for community member’s access to collaborative investment, while becoming part owners of the spaces and people they support. We could do with some of that in South Africa. Right?

South Africa is Part of Africa, but will it Take Part in Africa?

The World Bank has likened the doubling of African manufacturing output over the last decade to China’s position thirty years ago. Emerging Markets Investment firm Actis’ real estate director Louis Deppe believes that South African investors who ignore the potential in African markets do so at their own peril.

Ivor Ichikowitz, founder of Paramount Group, a privately owned defence and aerospace company, believes South Africans have looked to Asia and the West for the best ideas and viewed them as their natural competitors, as opposed to our African neighbours.

Louis Deppe of Actis

Louis Deppe told Moneyweb at an Africa Property Investment Summit in Sandton. “You have no choice not to care about Africa. It’s on your doorstep. Some significant economies are going to overtake South Africa in a very short space of time. They’re growing faster and have far more potential to grow.”

An example Deppe probably has in mind would be Ethiopia, their economy is expanding at 7.5% annually and that’s not just traditional industries like mining and agriculture, it’s also manufacturing. An example on the periphery of Addis Ababa is Chinese shoe maker Huajian, which has built a factory employing around 500 workers.

An economist at the World Bank who recently wrote a report on light manufacturing in Africa cites this as an example of how Africa could overtake Asia to potentially become the world’s next manufacturing hub.  Low labour costs, the availability of natural resources, and preferential access (duty-free and quota-free access) to the US and EU markets are all some of the advantages of operating in Africa.

It is predicted that Nigeria, with a growth rate of 7% should overtake South Africa by 2015. Louis Deppe warns that up until now, South Africa, being, arguably, the most democratic and stable country on the continent, has been able to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), often getting the lion’s share compared to other African countries. Once other countries also start fulfilling some basic requirements, this will no longer be the case.

South Africa used to be the gateway to the rest of Africa. If foreign investors wanted to set up and go into Africa, the FDI would come to SA first, before moving up north. This is no longer happening and foreign investors are now moving directly into Africa from China, Europe and the United States.

Nairobi – an “African Tech Hub”

By 2035, the continent’s work force will be greater than any individual state on earth.  Nigeria and Ethiopia will add over 30 million workers by 2020, whereas South Africa is looking at adding 2 million.

However, it’s not just manufacturing that Africa is excelling in and challenging South Africa. The Economist recently (August 2012) named Nairobi an “African tech hub” because of the hundreds of start-ups that have sprung up in the last few years. Kenya’s exports of technology related services have risen from $16m in 2002 to $360m in 2010. It is also a world leader in the adoption of mobile payments technology – and is far ahead of China and India.

According to Ivor Ichikowitz, within a few years Kenya could soon emerge as a world leader in mobile payments and export the technology to countries across the world.

He also refers to the African film industry. The Nigerian movie industry, which has overtaken South Africa’s to become the strongest on the continent worth £500m and producing more films than Hollywood every year. The films may not be international blockbusters, but they have huge appeal across Nigeria and Africa, and prove that Africans have the creativity to compete in non-traditional industries.

Nigerian Movie Industry Worth R6Billion in 2011

Clearly we need to be at least aware of what our neighbours are doing if our market is shrinking or stagnating and the world around us is getting bigger, we risk becoming less relevant in the grand scheme of things. Alas it seems the South African economy is sliding backwards while the rest of the continent is in first gear. Most African markets that Louis Deppe’s Actis group invests in are experiencing 7% GDP growth. “Despite claims of corruption, a lot of that money still filters down into the economy, there’s a lot of economic drive and growth.” he said. He added that on the development side, Actis was getting returns of between 13% and 14%.

But Ivor Ichikowitz has a positive spin on this: “it’s a positive opportunity for us to export our products and knowledge and generally expand trade with other African nations, which in turn will generate jobs for the youth of our country.”

South Africa has some great assets – its infrastructure, mature private sector, well developed services sector, stock exchange – that give us the opportunity to provide a range of goods and services to help grow our own economy, but we can work harder to maximise these advantages.

IVOR ICHIKOWITZ

Ichikowitz says that countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria are rushing forward and emerging as serious competitors for destinations of foreign capital.

This is pressuring our government and business leaders to look more closely at their policies and approach to business. The harsh reality is that if South Africa is to retain its position as the leading economy on the continent it can’t for a minute ‘rest on its laurels’.

Ichikowitz doesn’t see South Africa as being in competition with the rest of Africa, but rather in a position to learn from and impart learning to neighbouring states, which is why it is essential that we share technologies and collaborate to build strong regional industries that bolster inter-Africa trade.

Deppe looks more into the nitty-gritty glancing back to what he refers to as a watershed year for property investments in South Africa, 2010, after the World Cup. “We had all these infrastructural projects, the economy had withstood the 2008 global recession. Then suddenly: what’s next in SA? There’s not much left in South Africa, we are a saturated market.” Deppe said by way of illustration that vacancy rates had increased in many shopping centres across the country. As a result, investors’ returns at 7% or 8%, which were not great to begin with, are shrinking and are likely to be impacted further. He said with GDP growth in South Africa being below 3%

New South African Bank Notes

“you’re not even going to get out of the starting blocks. You’re actually going backwards in real terms.”

The troubling dynamic among South Africa investors is their reluctance to invest in Africa stems from an unfounded conservatism. “With the South African base not as strong as it was, it’s forcing people into a mind-set to look abroad. I don’t think they have a choice.” Deppe said.

Wind and Solar Energy Trivia for the Enquiring Mind

Two of the most prominent renewable energy sources besides hydroelectric power, are wind and solar energy. Read on to discover some facts to satisfy your curiosity and broaden your general knowledge.

Wind Power

Wind power is one of the oldest renewable sources of energy. As its speed doubles, its capability can produce an eightfold increase of power generation.

There’s nothing new about wind power, from time immemorial people have used the wind to pump water.

How does wind power work? The rotor blades of a wind turbine work like the wings of an aeroplane. As air passes over the specially designed blades, “lift” is created. This lift, in turn, sends the blades spinning in a circular motion, which drives an electric generator. When winds reach about twelve Km per hour, the rotor is engaged and the wind turbine begins producing power.

These days one modern turbine can produce enough electricity to support up to 290 homes.

As of April 2010, U.S. wind capacity reached more than 35,000 megawatts, achieving in 2010 alone what had previously taken two decades – the installation of more than 10,000 MW of wind power capacity. Currently 35,000 MW of wind energy will prevent an estimated 62 million tons of carbon pollution annually, which is equivalent to taking 10.5 million cars off the road.

According to a U.S. Department of Energy study released in 2009, wind energy could provide 20 per cent of U.S. electricity by 2030.

Currently, Denmark, Spain and Portugal meet between 12 per cent and 20 per cent of their electricity needs from wind energy. By contrast, wind power supplies about two per cent of the US’s current electricity needs. America’s wind resource is the largest in the world.

Solar and wind power systems have 100 times better lifetime energy yield than either nuclear or fossil energy system per tonne of mined materials.

At the end of 2007, worldwide capacity of wind turbines in operation was just over 94 Gigawatts.

The world’s largest wind turbine is currently the Enercon E-126 with a rotor diameter of 126 meters. The E-126 produces 6 megawatts, enough to power approximately 5,000 European households.

By 2010, Europe was leading the world in the development of offshore wind power.

Wind power makes up 40 per cent of new generating capacity installations in Europe and 35 per cent in the USA.

Solar Power

It would take only around 0.3 per cent of the world’s land area to supply all of our electricity needs via solar power.

With 4% of the world’s desert area, photovoltaics could supply the equivalent of all of the world’s electricity. The technology of Photovoltaics is the conversion of sunlight into electricity – also called “solar cells”.

The area of roof space available in Australia is enough to provide all of the nation’s electricity, using solar panels.

Weight for weight, advanced silicon based solar cells generate the same amount of electricity over their lifetime as nuclear fuel rods, without the hazardous waste. All the components in a solar panel can be recycled, whereas nuclear waste remains a threat for thousands of years.

The invention of the solar cooker challenged the consumers of the new millennium. In some places of the world, solar cooking is popular usually in large cities where the renewable heat of the sun generates enough energy. When sunlight hits a space with an area of 1 square meter, there is about 1,000 watts of energy from it on that surface which is hot enough to run the solar cooker.

Solar power is capable of providing many times the energy demanded by the world but it is an intermittent energy source as it is not available at all times. The amount of sunlight is dependent on location, time of day, time of year, and weather conditions. A large surface area is therefore required to collect the energy at a practical rate.

Experts believe that sunlight has the potential to supply 5,000 times as much energy as the world currently consumes.

Leonardo Da Vinci predicted solar industrialization during the late 15th century.

Horace de Saussure, a Swiss scientist, invented the world’s first solar energy collector or ‘hot box’ in 1767.

Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize in 1921 for his experiments with solar energy and photovoltaics.

The amount of energy that goes into creating solar panels is paid back through clean electricity production within anywhere from 1.5 – 4 years, depending on where they are used. This compares with a serviceable life of decades.

The theoretical limit for silicon based solar cells is 29% conversion efficiency. Currently, polycrystalline and monocrystalline solar panels generally available have efficiencies anywhere from 12% to 18%. With the addition of solar concentrators, the efficiency of photovoltaics is eventually likely to rise above 60 per cent.

The Earth receives more energy from the sun in an hour than is used in the entire world in one year.

Germany has nearly half the world’s installed solar cell capacity, thanks to a generous subsidy programme. In 2006, the country installed 100,000 new solar power systems.

Global annual photovoltaic installations increased from just 21 megawatts in 1985, to 2,826 megawatts in 2007.

Solar energy prices have decreased 4% per annum on average over the past 15 years.

Manufacturing solar cells produces 90% less pollutants than conventional fossil fuel technologies

The solar industry creates 200 to 400 jobs in research, development, manufacturing and installation for every 10 megawatts of solar power generated annually.

A world record was set in 1990 when a solar powered aircraft flew 4060km across the USA, using no fuel.

The worldwide production of solar cells increased by 60% in 2004. However production has been hampered in the past years due to limited supply of silicon.

The Mojave Desert in North America houses the world’s largest solar power plant. It covers 1000 acres (4 km²) of solar reflectors.  It produces 90% of the world’s commercially produced solar power.

Africa’s Sahara desert, using 15% efficient solar cells, could generate more than 450 Terawatt per year.

About half of worldwide production of solar panels is consumed by Japan. Their purpose is mostly for grid connected residential applications.

Solar and Wind energy are viable and renewable alternatives to filthy coal, oil and other fossil fuels. We ought to encourage every effort by business and local government in pursuit of programmes that seriously encourage their use. One example is Eskom’s solar Geyser programme where people are encouraged to make use of the subsidy or discount that Eskom and insurance companies are offering to replace ordinary geysers with solar powered ones. You can make a difference.

 

(Sources: Iberdrola Renewables, American Wind Energy Association, Global Wind Energy Council) Energy Matters; Wikipedia; Professor Andrew Blakers; SolarBuzz; Worldwatch Institute; Science Daily; The Four Green Steps.)

The Battle of the Beachfronts

Let’s face it there has to be some resentment, so much of the glamour of ye olde Durban shifted to Umhlanga in the 1980s through to the ‘90s. But lots of cleaning up was done and then there was uShaka and some notable inner-city reclamation projects and Durban stopped looking so tarty.

On the other hand what used to be little scenic Umhlanga, has it’s own industrial area now, plus Hillbrow-type blocks of flats around Gateway and all those tarty mansions on the ridge in what used to be gently swaying sugarcane. Throw in some perennial storms exposing those very rocky beaches and things don’t look so rosy for the once cheeky upstart.

In anticipation of the, try not to yawn, 2010 Soccer World Cup, Durban embarked on a serious facelift to it’s dodgy beachfront. Following demolition and refurbishment, rearrangement of facilities and an impressive walkway, hotels have expressed how it was worth the wait. Hoteliers say Durban’s beachfront occupancy rates are exceeding those of Umhlanga and Ballito by as much as 10%. Deputy President of the Durban Chamber of Commerce, Mike Jackson, said there had been a “complete turnabout” by locals and tourists in regard to the beachfront and that the corporate trade was now balanced with holidaymakers.

There is renewed interest in spending time at the Durban beachfront, with big companies looking to buy land and existing hotels spending millions on upgrades. Hoteliers report an increase in locals coming down to the city beaches, especially at weekends. Cycle and pedestrian paths have also helped in attracting Durbanites back to the beachfront.

Enter a very motivated Umhlanga Rocks: not used to being upstaged by the tired old city, plans have been carried out to perk up some of the urban sag in Umhlanga’s infrastructure. R70million has been spent on the 2.8km promenade which stretches from the Breakers Resort in the north to Durban View Road in the south, with the paving similar to that at the Durban central beachfront. However, one little detail the Durban promenade averages at 15m in width, the Umhlanga promenade is about 5m wide. This presents a scenario that will depend on your taste.

On the Umhlanga promenade, wheels are banned. Except prams. No skateboards, rollerblades or bicycles. If you are walking with a stick, that’s good news. If you are in town for the annual student rage parties, it’s off to Gateway with you. In Durban you can bring your twelve wheeler circus cycle to the promenade and juggle wombats on your head if you like, you won’t be in the way. But no official matric rage parties are scheduled for Durban. Gateway has no competition.

Umhlanga has also upgraded roads previously unfriendly to tourist and pedestrian traffic. Roads such as Lagoon Drive and the roads leading from the Ruth First Freeway into central Umhlanga are also being upgraded.

Durban View Park is an important through way to the beach it has been the site of some important changes: The toilet and shower facilities have been upgraded, the park itself will be properly fenced and the walkway has been re-laid with bricks. The car park area has been greatly increased in size and should be completed any day now.

Due to a reputation for accidents, Lagoon Drive has been fitted with a number of speed-calming measures like traffic round-abouts and speed bumps. For example there is a round-about at the intersection with Durban View Road. Pedestrian tables, similar to brick speed bumps have also been added to allow people to walk across, for increased safety.

With the combination of the Matric parties, the usual holiday traffic during the festive season and the much anticipated COP 17 conference in the city, Umhlanga hoteliers are expecting 90% occupancy. Peter Rose, head of Umhlanga Tourism, believes that if holidaymakers haven’t yet booked a room, it may well be too late.

Down in Durban those in the hotel industry are equally upbeat in anticipation of the 25000 UN guests arriving. But the city has its sites set even further ahead. The second phase of the upgrade that began before World Cup 2010 is expected to actually transform the city’s shoreline from the Country Club beach to Blue Lagoon and will show off Durban’s wide open spaces. It will include restaurants and exciting new shops. It will also involve extending the pedestrian and cycling promenades, and relocating the Laguna Beach paddling pools to Blue Lagoon.

In the final analysis, what’s good for Umhlanga is good for Durban as they spill into each other turf. Many tourists stay in one locality and travel to the other for a change of scenery or simply to take in the attractions unique to that location. So all this bodes well for commercial property in both locations as businesses that have waited it out through the beeping of earth moving equipment, can now reap rewards through the tourism industry’s attraction of conference attendees, party animals and holiday makers. Iron sharpens iron goes the saying. Nothing like a little healthy competition to bring out the best in both cities.

Sandton – Hard Sweet work or Sweet Hard work?

The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote that change in all things is sweet. Scottish comedian Billy Chrystal said that change is just a lot of hard work! Witnessing the changes to the SandtonCBDskyline you may see something sweet here and there, but it’s mostly the result of a lot of hard work.

 

Much has been publicised about SandtonCity’s big R1.77bn first phase expansion. One can’t help draw attention to Sandton City’s retail space expansion to a total of 143 690m² upon completion of the first phase this month, taking the complex, which includes the Sandton hotel and office component, to 215 000sqm. But there is more happening in Sandton besideSandtonCity.

 

Part of what was once referred to as the wealthiest square mile inAfrica, the Village Walk,  these days only attracts a steady stream of JSE visitors’ vehicles seeking a parking space. Management of the once thriving collection of eateries and fashionable boutiques seemed to lose any sense of vision in the early 2000s. The once fashionable in-spot of the 90’s, sadly, has discount posters in its windows and wispy tumble-weeds of litter blowing about its courseways.

 

Having started as a rumour earlier in the year, it’s now conventional wisdom that the Village Walk will be demolished and even that 60 year old Grand Dame the Balalaika Hotel will be torn down and resurrected on the corner ofMaude StreetandRivonia Road. Of course it was never a matter of competing with its two sistersSandtonCityandNelson Mandela Square, rather it will be a matter of complementing and supplementing those enormously successful retail and entertainment venues. The current Village Walk basement will be retained and two floors of retail and some office space will be layered above. The whole development will be in four phases over eight years. Only a couple of blocks from the Gautrain station the venue has exciting potential. An international hotel is also on the cards making up the rest of the 180 000sqm of the project’s space.

 

Investors are showing enthusiasm for the acquisition of land or buildings for redevelopment close to the Gautrain station and it is envisaged that the area surrounding the station will be the centre of sustainable growth in the value of commercial property. There are even plans afoot to build above the station itself!

 

115 West Street, right opposite the station, is the future site of the Alexander Forbes head office for its approximately 2200Johannesburgstaff. The refurbished, eight storey 36 950m² office building will be embracing some green building codes with all natural light and energy efficient lighting. Throw in super fast lifts and state-of-the-art auditoriums  stuffed with all the latest technology, a gym, snazzy coffee shop and staff restaurant and you have a self contained little urban island. Nebank is putting up the R840 million funding for the development. This will become Zenprop’s Properties’ flagship of South African commercial properties. Alexander Forbes is expected to take occupation of the building on1 October 2012.

 

Characterised by a large number of owner occupied developments and with the majority of international banks, the JSE Securities Exchange, legal and management consultancies, Sandton, is widely acknowledged as the premier financial district inSouth Africa. There are currently over thirty development applications for the SandtonCBD, which includes  zoning changes  and renovations.

 

One such revamp is Southern Sun’s landmark Grayston Hotel. It’s closing its doors next month with a proposal having been lodged for the redevelopment of the building.

 

Other developments on the boil are 20 000sqm of sectional title office space on the corner of Katherine and West Streets – for occupation in 2013; 6 Sandown Valley Crescent, with a gross lettable area of 18 000sqm and a projected completion date of mid-2011; 16 000sqm at 1 Protea Place, with Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr Attorneys as a tenant plus other smaller tenants; and Sandhurst Office Park, where 26 000sqm of office space becomes available in 2013.

 

Much of the demand for development seems to revolve around the financial sector. Developments planned over the next five years include: 9 000sqm at140 West Street; 35 000sqm for Standard Bank at11 Alice Lane; 150 000sqm on the site of the old Sandton municipal offices; and atFNBTowers, 25 000sqm of additional space.

 

One of the biggest changes to the Sandton skyline will be on the corner of West, Stella and Rivonia Roads. Insurance giant, Old Mutual, wants new headquarters inSouth Africa. Its answer is to build a multi-storey office precinct next to the Gautrain station. Old Mutual is to move their head office fromPresident Streetin Jo’burg’sCBDto where theChadrien Placebuilding stands, at the corner ofRivonia RoadandWest Street. The first 50 000 square meters will be ready for occupation by 2013, and the final product will be a 35 storey building.Chadrien Placeis currently an ageing Tudor-style block of 33 flats. On average units were valued at about R1,5m a couple of years ago. That all changed thanks to the Gautrain. Old Mutual is believed to have paid R400 million to a development consortium for theChadrien Placesite.

 

Finally on the auction front, one gets an idea of the demand in theCBD. During Auction Alliance’s September multiple auction event, two A-Grade office blocks in the heart of the SandtonCBD, offering a first rate development opportunity, were sold for R48.5 million. With A Gross Lettable Area of 2530sqm, this represents a bulk value of over R19,000/sqm.

 

There may be an economic down turn, but the future for Sandton looks set to change. For some it’s going to be sweet, for others, a lot of hard work.

Learn More about Sandton visit www.eprop.co.za

Going Potty in Jo’burg.

Do you remember all those promises about potholes in our roads being fixed at the beginning of the previous financial year: the homeless bathing in them; cars disappearing into them? Well Jo’burg’s been getting the good end of the deal thanks to the Dial Direct Pothole Brigade that made a start in August last year.

 

Yes, the name sounds like something out of Monty Python, but there’s been no slap-stick here. Thanks to a partnership between Johannesburg Road Agency (JRA) and the said Brigade, 35 000 potholes have been repaired on Jo’burg’s roads. That’s a lot of empty space to fill!

 

To fix potholes, the Dial Direct Pothole Brigade has used an innovative Jetpatcher, which is a large articulated vehicle that carries aggregate and hot asphalt for patching up or repairing potholes.

 

 A high-tech machine mounted on the chassis of a truck, it uses a high pressure compressor to blow out debris and water from the pothole. The airflow cleans out fissures in the hole to ensure that complete waterproofing is achieved. Then the aggregate and asphalt are blasted in.

 

Now that this successful pilot project has come to an end, the JRA will have to formalise procedures and incorporate the repair of potholes into a tender process.

 

The JRA is a Jo’burg City-owned entity responsible for the construction and resurfacing of municipal roads, construction of bridges, building and managing culverts and storm water drains, maintenance of road infrastructure, traffic lights, road markings and signage.

 

During the course of the project the following roads that have been patched: the M16 – Linksfield Road, M90 – CR Swart Road, M57 – Pretoria Road, R512 – Malibongwe Drive, M6 – Cedar Road, R511 – William Nicol Drive, M26 – Main Road and R562 – Olifantsfontein Road, to mention just a few.

 

The Dial Direct Pothole Brigade, is a special task force comprising provincial and local government departments and two private companies. The original intention was to deal with Jo’burg’s ever-increasing potholes. Its work was never supposed to be a permanent arrangement but rather to supplement the maintenance work already done by the Johannesburg Road Agency and theGautengprovincial government.

 

Hopefully this will render redundant the guidelines on how to repair and prevent potholes, published by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on its website. Surprised by the huge interest, the CSIR released its annual results in Pretoria this week revealing that  800 downloads for the guidelines had been made since they were first published in December last year.

 

The training courses on the causes of potholes and various repair methods for different types of potholes, held by the CSIR since February 2011, had also proved very popular. You have to hand it to the South African public for being proactive and enterprising.

 

But the merry hole-filling brigade has other fish to fry now and is moving on to the outer reaches ofGauteng. The specific areas are yet to be announced. But it’s going to be good news for somebody.

 

Sam Swaine, the media director of Heart PR, publicists for Dial Direct says motorists should now report potholes in JRA areas directly to the agency on hotline@jra.org.za.

 

However the brigade urges motorists who identify potholes onGautengroads to report them either online or by dialling *120*1551# from a cellphone and following the onscreen instructions or via the mobile site, potholebrigade.mobi.

 

The JRA will now have to resume its responsibility for dealing with eradicating potholes alone. The additional capacity through public and private partnerships has enabled the City to do so much more than it normally has the capacity to manage.

 

A mayoral committee member for transport was quoted as saying: “Believing in the importance of government working together with the private sector and civil society, we think that this partnership has enabled us to do even more in the interests of the citizens ofJohannesburg.”

 

Clearly there is some light at the end of tunnel for road maintenance in Jo’burg and lets hope the momentum doesn’t stop now as the initiative continues into the rest of the province.

 Learn more about Joburg: visit eprop.co.za

SandtonCity– in the news for all the right reasons.

When you’re getting it right the heads are up and it’s not just about size, and yes folks sometimes size does matter!

 Expanding the family

In November this yearSandtonCitywill expand by 30 000 square meters to 215 000 square meters, 144 000 being retail space.  Edgars is being upgraded as the flag ship store for Edcon to 12 000 square meters.  Edcon’s Jet Store is being reintroduced to the centre as well.

Truworths, the Foschini Group and Mr Price have acknowledged thatSandtonCity’s extension will be vital to their own growth plans. The Foshini group is doubling its trading area to 1,900 square metres. It will also be expanding American Swiss Jewellers, Markhams and adding a Donna Claire store to the line-up.

Throw in another 58 retailers and by year endSandtonCitywill have mushroomed like never before. Reinventing itself again, keeping its image fresh and exciting. The Bread Basket, Billabong, Nicci, Cameraland, Hydraulics, Marion & Lindie and Chefs n’ Icers are all recently revealing slick and sexy new store concepts and designs.

 Attracting the Glitterati.

Then just when you thought it couldn’t get better, adding to the already nearly 300 local brands represented, Sharon Swain, Centre Manager, announced that there would be an influx of international names too: Polish makeup house Inglot; Brazilian footwear brand Dumond, Italian clothing designer Carlo Pignatelli, Portuguese menswear designer Miguel Vieira and Kurt Geiger from New York. “Each of these retailers boasts a unique premium offering and their arrival brings the best of international trends to our local market.” Declared Swain.

 Investment

You may well ask who’s behind all this. “The expansion ofSandtonCityis strongly retailer-driven. We’ve worked closely with our national tenants to bring the very latest and best retail concepts and designs to shoppers,” said Julie Hillary, general manager Sandton region, for Liberty Properties.  The redevelopment is being undertaken by Liberty Properties on behalf of owners The Liberty Group, which owns 75% and Pareto Ltd, which owns 25%.

 Going Green

The headlines continued in August with the announcement thatSandtonCity’s landmark expansion is being capped with a South African first: an environmentally-friendly climate envelope roof. Yes it’s true,SandtonCityis going Green. TheProtea Courtroof has been created with a product called Texlon.

Texlon is an innovative Green technology used worldwide and is being used for the first time inSouth AfricaatSandtonCity. The reason for its selection as a roofing material is its lightweight and environmentally-friendly climatic envelope. It is highly energy efficient, comprises of environmentally-friendly technology.

 Showing some love

But it’s not just about glitz, glamour and Green. Showing its intentions back in March when Earth Hour was celebrated,SandtonCityrevealed its warmer side when in conjunction with Mr Price Home 150 quality fleece blankets were donated to the children ofAlexandraTownshipas part of the Corporate Social Initiative programme.

The recipients were the Banakekeleni and Abangani E Nkosini homes caring for orphans and the elderly. In addition as part of the annual Sandton City CSI programme, a pledge was made to supply these homes with essential hampers during the course of the year to assist with the meeting of basic daily needs.

The future looks bright for a shopping centre that’s puts its money where its mouth is as a national retail icon, mindful of the environment and the greater good of the surrounding community. The world is  watching you SandtonCity.

Columbia Neurosurgery

Article Written for Content Current January 2011

“Columbia Neurosurgery”

Everyone has heard the quip: “You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to…”

Neurosurgeons certainly have a reputation for being up there with the brightest and most skilled professionals. But when you’re faced with the day that you need one – how do you know where to go to get the best service? How can you be sure that your local Neurosurgeon is the person for your needs?

Columbia University Medical Center’s Department of Neurosurgery at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, New York is ranked in the top 5 in the USA by the US News and World Report, making the Honor Role for 2010/11. Over 5000 hospitals were considered, 152 made the list and Columbia is ranked 4th in the nation for Neurology and Neurosurgery. This is a comforting thought when entrusting your life or that of a loved one to professionals.

Of course at Columbia’s Department of Neurological Surgery the physicians aren’t just professional doing a job, they are real men and women with real names like Steven Isaacson, Dorothea Altschul and Sean Lavine. They love their work and take pride in their doctor/patient relations. A rudimentary introduction to the hospital gives one an immediate sense that there is a desire for individual patient outcomes.

This brings us to the Neurosurgery Intensive Care unit at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Like the name suggests, it specializes in the aftercare of Neurosurgery patients. There is also specialist care for Pediatric Neurology patients.

If you are among those who find some security in high tech equipment and cutting edge procedures, look no further. At the Columbia University Center for Neurosurgery, a multidisciplinary team of 18 surgical specialists and sub specialists cover just about every imaginable neurological condition. Being a University Hospital, the commitment to research is very high. This means access to cutting edge techniques that are less invasive than many older procedures and thus lowering risks that have existed previously.

Fees always play a significant role in ones choices. The Department of Neurosurgery has its own insurance specialist on staff to help you liaise with your insurance company. They also communicate with your surgeon to secure any required preauthorizations. Payment plans are also available where necessary.

For out of town patients there is comfortable guest accommodation with a shuttle service to the hospital. Facilities include the McKeen Pavilion and the Crowne Plaza Englewood for friends and family of patients that want to be near loved ones for the duration their stay. The guest Facility at the Helmsley Medical Tower offers a “home away from home.”

The Columbia University Medical Center Department of Neurological Surgery specialties centers attract patients from all over the world. There is a Brain Tumor Center, a Pediatric Neurosurgery Center as well as centers for Pain and Epilepsy to name a few. The Columbia’s reputation for experience, skill and patient Care are world renown. When healthcare researchers Castle Connolly America’s Top Doctors asked 250, 000 doctors “to whom you would send members of your family” in 2009, more doctors from New York Presbyterian were mentioned than any other American hospital.