The Catalyst Hotel in Sandton Johannesburg is an apartment property with 206 bedrooms, constructed and furbished at a cost of R175m.
It is the latest addition to the Newmark hotels, reserves, lodges and residences portfolio in South Africa, Mauritius and Tanzania.
According to general manager, Robert Chifunyise, the property that opened in August 2021 was originally built in an apartment style, as the intention was always to operate a hotel and not necessarily an apartment/residential hotel.
He says the distinction came in with the addition of a restaurant, conference rooms, spa, gym and the ground floor artwork and décor.
“When Covid-19 struck, we had to look at other options to bring in base business. At the time, serviced apartments were the best option, as the restriction lockdown levels kept fluctuating, which made it difficult to forecast or attract any hotel stays. There is a market for serviced apartments, and so far, we have rented out up to 34 long-stay apartments.”
Chifunyise explains that the architecture and design of the building makes it possible to function as both a hotel and apartments. “We also learnt that in the current market, flexibility translates to longevity.”
Although individual corporates were the initial target market, The Catalyst attracts an interesting mix of guests.
These include corporate guests working from home when they are in Johannesburg and need comfortable and serviced apartments.
“We have guests who stay at The Catalyst while they renovate their homes, and some from other countries who are here visiting friends and family for prolonged periods of time.”
Inside the property
The Catalyst offers interleading units, which comprise a Premium suite with a spacious lounge, kitchenette, full bathroom and king bedroom with a minibar and satellite TV. The adjacent Deluxe rooms feature either king or convertible twin beds and a bathroom with shower.
All rooms are furnished with plush Restonic mattresses and cossetted in 300-thread count linen. The bathrooms include the Ben Sherman bath & shower products range.
Additionally, there is a two-bedroom executive suite, which is suitable for guests who are looking for generous living space during longer stays.
Chifunyise says that although the property is not yet graded, their services and facilities are in the 4-star range.
“Since opening, the reception has been great and market consensus has been overwhelming.”
The Catalyst includes underground parking, a gym and a full-service Sanctuary Spa. There are conferencing facilities with three divisible spaces that seat a total of 120 people in cinema-style configuration.
On the ground floor, there is a bar and restaurant, Kashew, which seats 120 people inside and a small deck alongside a plunge pool outside.
The Catalyst property rates
However, from a revenue perspective, Chifunyise says that it has been difficult, leading to rates fluctuating, as they try to compete in a fragile market.
Hotel rates range from R750 room only, to R1,200 bed and breakfast, depending on room type.
Rates for deluxe rooms or bachelor/studio apartments with no kitchen or lounge facility are priced at R10,000 per month. Included in the price are electricity and water usage, servicing, cleaning, linen change twice a week, complimentary tea/coffee and muffin or croissant, free Wi-Fi, free access to the gym and swimming pool, and access to the spa at a cost.
Chifunyise says that one-bedroom apartments in a Premium room with lounge and kitchen cost R15,000 per month. The two-bedroom premium room and deluxe room are R25,000 per month and include all the services offered in the bachelor/studio apartments.
The Sandton area is a highly competitive location with a number of hotel properties that have apartments. However, Chifunyise says that what sets The Catalyst apart is their service excellence.
“We have professional staff who are friendly and passionate about hospitality. We are far removed from the hustle and bustle of Sandton. The location in a quiet residential area provides a different level of tranquillity and privacy.”
Furthermore, he says that opening at a difficult time such as now has been a blessing, as most people wanting accommodation are always looking for something new and different.
“Our bar and restaurant, Kashew, has become something to talk about. We offer an authentic and unpretentious dining experience. The style of food is not what you would expect from your typical hotel restaurant.”
Décor and design features
The Catalyst’s main design concept was always to take advantage of the uniquely suburban character of the site.
“Bearing in mind the hotel would have to compete with some of the top hotels in Johannesburg, we tried to set ourselves apart by creating an almost residential atmosphere,” points out Chifunyise.
In stark contrast to the highly corporate image of other nearby establishments, he says they opted for a more rustic look and feel. The design incorporated raw finishes such as wood, steel and concrete.
It is decorated throughout in greys, blacks and whites, accented with warm wood and sleek, white-veined black natural stone.
“The inclusion of plant boxes on the internal spaces, along with the large street-side trees, emphasise the design philosophy of intimacy, relaxation, and tranquillity.”
The property also features artwork for sale from upstART galleries’ collection, featuring local artists. In addition to providing the artists with a platform to showcase their works at The Catalyst, upstART has also undertaken to support these artists as they grow their careers, says Chifunyise.
Moreover, 90% of the property power is supplied by roof-mounted solar panels. It is backed up by a generator that can manage 100% of electrical requirements in the event of loadshedding.
Chifunyise says the property has stormwater tanks in the basement that will be used for irrigation in the near future. The domestic water tank holds a 48-hour back-up reserve for the building.
Another feature is that the building has optimal northern exposure for 70% of the rooms, which means that no central HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system was required.
The Catalyst features LED energy-efficient lights, and public bathrooms, the spa, gym and basement have sensor-motion lighting, he adds.
Edited by Gudrun Kaiser