Bantry Bay’s moniker as the ‘Monaco of Africa’ is no longer a stretch of the imagination, and even less so now that Murray & Roberts Western Cape is making good progress with the Aurum luxury lifestyle development by extensively revamping the old Ambassador Hotel and Suites.

Murray & Roberts Western Cape is a division of Murray & Roberts Construction which is being purchased by a consortium led by the Southern Palace Group of Companies; this will create the first major black-owned infrastructure and building construction business in South Africa.

Working in collaboration with Metle Construction, specialists in high-end Cape Town residential projects, Murray & Roberts Western Cape has been on site since April last year. The well-publicised project includes a building on each side of the busy Victoria Road between Clifton and Sea Point, with the eight sumptuous Presidential Residences cascading down to the water’s edge below the road, and the 15 plush Luxury Residences climbing up the hill above the road.

Being developed by DA’Realty, the investment subsidiary of the Dubai-based, multi-national Darvesh Group, the development will encapsulate premium standards of quality and exceptional attention to detail, to create an atmosphere of sophistication and refinement. The Group has marketed the apartments to their database of wealthy local and international buyers, and most have already been reserved.

Indicative of how sought after this development will be, the Darvesh family will be keeping a top floor apartment for their own use, which will comprise a four bedroom, 530 m² penthouse.

The Presidential Residences, each occupying their own level with lift access, range in size from 270 m² to 600 m². The Luxury Residences across the road are sized from 140 m² to 550 m², with three units to a floor; prices there range from R95 000/m² to R120 000/m².

The high values associated with the development have much to do with the fact that there is simply no more land for development on this popular and wind-protected section of Cape Town’s eastern seaboard. It is also designated as a ‘scenic route’ so is subject to stringent building regulations.

The urban environment and tight space constraints also bring their own challenges for the contractors, according to Simon Dutton, senior contracts manager at Murray & Roberts Western Cape.

“To comply with municipal by-laws and in consideration of our neighbours, our working hours are restricted during weekdays, and there are no building activities on Saturday afternoons, Sundays or public holidays,” says Dutton. “This arrangement also accommodates the high volume of tourist traffic, as it is a very popular area for visitors; even the Argus Cycle Tour comes through this route.”

Safety is a key consideration, as traffic is generally heavy along the narrow road, and there is plenty of pedestrian traffic. There has even been a special concession to keep the ground floor pharmacy open during the construction phase, and it will continue to function after the Aurum is opened.

During construction closed-circuit cameras focused on various points on the road between the two buildings ensure that traffic and pedestrian behaviour is closely monitored, and that construction staff are safely managing the traffic flow while accepting the necessary deliveries of concrete, bricks and other materials. Two tower cranes, one for each side of the road, facilitate quick and efficient lifting of materials to the workspaces where they are needed.

Much of the construction work has been focused on intricate structural changes which require intense supervision and care, says Dave Griffiths, partner at Metle Construction and project director for the Aurum refurbishment.

“The exacting requirements of the owner and architect require that many complex adjustments and improvements are implemented to enhance the residents’ experience of living in this spectacular space,” says Griffith.

He highlights that where engineered demolitions are required, these are overseen and signed off by a certified engineer.

“Quality and engineering standards remain the watchwords, so wherever we consider that extensive adjustments need to be made, we call on the engineer for checking and go-ahead,” he says.

The distinctive curving colonnade at the ground floor entrance to the Ambassador will be retained for the Aurum although it will be replaced with a new circular entrance complete with water feature.

Unusually for Murray & Roberts Western Cape, they will take the construction only up to ‘white box’ stage, where floors and walls are tiled, ceilings are installed and all surfaces are prepared, painted and ready for their final coat.

“We will provide temporary doors and hand over the client’s own contractors, who will undertake the finishing stages of the job including kitchen fittings, vanities, cupboards, door frames, doors and architraves,” says Dutton.

The out-sized specifications of the specially imported tiles – 2,8 m long and 800 mm wide – are another indicator that this is no ordinary development, and that no expense has been spared to create a luxury result.

“There will be little room for error in the handover to the final-stage contractors, so the pressure is on us and our South African tradesmen to complete our work to ‘seven star’ grade,” says Griffiths. “We will have to leave our part of the work perfect in anticipation of the next stage, especially given the high value of the imported components which must fit exactly.”

Top-end appliance brand names have also been associated with the apartments to assure buyers of the highest standard of finishes and equipment.