As little as 10 years ago, the very idea of the Maboneng Precinct as it is today (and what it’s fast becoming) would have seemed an impossible feat to most. But to Jonathan Liebmann, after returning home from a trip abroad and missing the urban lifestyle he was able to live there, the area was alive with possibilities. With a vision to craft a vibrant urban community, Liebmann founded his development company Propertuity in 2007. His first property investment was Arts on Main, which has since grown into a major drawing card for the Maboneng Precinct.
Considering that Arts on Main only opened in 2010, it’s quite astounding how much growth has taken place since. Visiting the Precinct you’ll notice an eclectic mix of people, shops, restaurants, studios, offices and apartments. Maboneng even has its own independent cinema – The Bioscope. Sotho for “place of lights,” that’s just what Maboneng has come to be.
We had the opportunity to ask Jonathan a few questions to learn more about his exciting journey so far.
Please tell us what your official (or unofficial) job title is:
I’m the founder of Propertuity, the developers of the Maboneng precinct.
Growing up, what did you want to be?
You’ve been in business since you were 15 years old. Tell us more about your journey so far, and how you came to be where you are today.
It’s been one massive learning curve filled with many challenges and opportunities. I had started 5 businesses by the time I was 24. The 5th is Propertuity, which has been the most successful one.
Over the past few years, you’ve transformed a once derelict area into a vibrant urban community. What was your vision for the Maboneng Precinct before it came to be?
My vision was to create the best neighbourhood in the world that would cater to people from all backgrounds and provide a platform for people to realize their dreams.
Practically, what did it take to realise this vision? Who were some of the key role players that Propertuity partnered with to bring the Maboneng Precinct to life?
My team at Propertuity have been the most important role players. They have allowed the company to achieve exponential growth, much beyond what I was capable of on my own. Some of the long standing team members include Hayleigh Evans, Eric Herr and Shruti Nair, and then of course all of the great residents and businesses in Maboneng who have supported the vision throughout.
Undertaking a project of such a grand scale surely had its challenges. Talk to us about some of these…
Changing people’s perceptions so that they could break down their mental barriers and return to the city was the greatest challenge. Currently, the lack of government services in the area is a challenge.
How would you explain your approach, or philosophy, when it comes to property development?
Our aim is to develop iconic properties that have integrity in concept, engineering and execution.
In your line of work, is there such a thing as a typical work day? What do your days tend to consist of?
Every day differs somewhat, but there are some consistencies. One of these is doing a site walk twice a day, through various building sites (there are currently five sites.) Other regular occurrences include meeting with key stakeholders, staff and project teams. And then breakfast and lunch at one of the 17 restaurants in Maboneng.
What characteristics and skills does it take to do what you do?
Unrealistic optimism, perseverance, design exposure, lifestyle exposure, passion.
What do you love the most about what you do?
I love watching other entrepreneurs grow their businesses in Maboneng, and seeing residents who are happy with their new urban lifestyle.
And the part you’d rather do without?
The building owners who don’t recognize the positive change.
Looking back, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned throughout your career so far?
Do what you love and people will love what you do.
What advice would you give to anyone who is looking to do what you do?
Drink a double espresso daily on an empty stomach to give you the energy. Practice what you preach. Live the vision.
And finally, what’s next? Do you still have big plans for Maboneng? Tell us about your grand schemes…
We’re completing 5 buildings now, and have plans for another 15 buildings in the next 2 years – all in the name of creating the coolest neighbourhood around. Some upcoming highlights in the area include the Poolside Café, Curiocity Backpackers, 250 new apartments, a park, more parking space, and of course the recently opened MOAD.
Read more about the Maboneng Precinct here: mabonengprecinct.com