Cape Town’s Dutiful Developer
Brothers Paul and Saul Berman have been revitalising the city where they grew up via a string
of landmark building developments since going into business together in 1994
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Josh Mann
I had trained as a lawyer and was well set to pursue a career in law when my brother, Saul, invited me to go into a partnership with him to form Berman Brothers Group. Saul had started the company in 1989.
“He had just been awarded the contract for Cape Town Airport’s new domestic arrivals terminal and there was a clear opportunity for us to build from there and to chart our own destiny. We had always had a strong bond as brothers, and this was just the challenge we needed to create something special together.”
For Paul Berman, 1994 and dawn of post-Apartheid South Africa opened up a world of opportunity in his home city of Cape Town.
Drawing on an intimate understanding of their community, the duo have played an influential role in rejuvenating the Sea Point suburb where they grew up, delivering a portfolio of luxury property developments which have helped to elevate property values across the area.
Indeed, the Bermans’ bold undertakings reflect their wider confidence in South Africa and its property development sector, an industry which has been through an undeniably tough period recently.
For Paul Berman, who is CEO of Berman Brothers Group, there is plenty of cause to be upbeat.
“If you look beyond the daily headlines, there are clear signs that the country is moving in the right direction,” he says. “The leadership of key institutions, from the prosecuting authority to boards of state-owned enterprises, has been reinforced with competent and trustworthy people, for example.
“Commissions of inquiry are getting to the bottom of corruption scandals and prosecutions will follow. These are the right steps towards rebuilding trust and the rule of law, which are essential to the success of the economy.
In terms of his own enterprise, Berman points to an extraordinary location as central to its success to date and future prospects. Stunning scenic splendour and a relaxed, aspirational lifestyle with a host of world-class dining, outdoor and shopping experiences available on its doorstep, Cape Town is rightly considered a jewel in South Africa’s crown.
“We remain exceptionally positive about the property market in this area in which we focus and are most prominent,” Berman adds. “We have always believed that quality property in the right area and position will attract buyers of discernment.
“Our strategy is to leverage this solid base and position ourselves to develop a bigger national footprint and further opportunities for growth.”
Growing such a national footprint has been and will continue to be made possible by a formidable track record built up in Cape Town.
Among its recently handed over projects include The Kings, a sleek and commanding building located on the main road of Sea Point that houses a unique property café for new acquisition Dogon Group, the first of its kind in the city.
Marble flooring, state-of-the-art technology setups, and even an in-house barrister are some of the features that will contribute to making this a one-of-a-kind property showroom, while the building also contains 44 elegant apartments in the upper floors.
Another landmark development is The Estate, a multi-level private complex made up of two apartment blocks on the slopes of Signal Hill, set at the foot of Table Mountain and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Phase one is complete, with phase two of the scheme coming to a conclusion.
Fitted with 24-hour security and concierge services, The Estate is the first of its kind to come complete with its own backup electricity and water supply in case of outages, able to self-provision for around two weeks if required. A particular highlight is the infinity pool and bar area available to residents of the 42 two- or three-bed apartments.
For Berman, this project is fitting of the company’s motto.
“Berman Brothers is a cutting-edge development company which has created, and strongly maintains, a hard-earned reputation for reliability, financial jurisprudence, ethics and creativity,” he explains.
“When we launched the firm, we used an extremely bold slogan: ‘Berman Brothers is building – on time as usual!’. It meant making big promises, and then beating all expectations. This is what we believe makes Berman Brothers unique. This is who we are, and this is what we represent.”
It is not just new developments which are etched with the Berman Brothers hallmark, however.
The CEO continues: “Our ethos is based on providing hubs of excellence to communities and to making a difference in the areas we develop. We aim to create a positive impact with every project we complete.
“By transforming aged and floundering properties into developed and functional spaces, we generate value for all parties involved, from property investors, buyers and stakeholders, to tenants and residents of the surrounding areas.”
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This flow of positivity generated by Berman Brothers developments also trickles down into the organisation and its own employees, assets who are described as the lifeblood of the business.
Encouraged to further their skills through numerous training projects and sharing knowledge with trainees and interns, it is a tremendous source of pride for both Berman brothers that many of the company’s staff have been with them since day one.
Paul Berman reflects: “I have learnt that every employee is a potential or actual leader and needs to be treated as such. This has taught me how to lead, inspire and motivate my work colleagues as valued peers, rather than how to lead employees who are remunerated to follow instructions.
“We have an entrepreneurial culture that encourages each person to think like a business owner – it’s how we incubate fresh thinking to remain at the forefront of our industry.”
This cultural nurturing can also be applied to the relationships Berman Brothers has with its suppliers, seen as the foundation to the company’s longevity.
“Trust is the most important ingredient in any partnership and it’s about consistency and fairness but, most importantly, staying true to the relationship in good times and bad,” Berman continues.
“Having based our business in Sea Point, where we were raised, we have many exceptional business partners who have supported us over the years, and we continue to draw on the combined strength of this network to keep growing. It makes all the difference knowing that we can rely on our partners when we need them.”
The acquisition of Dogon Group represents the latest such relationship which will power Berman Brothers into another successful quarter century of existence.
Having built up a hard-earned reputation across its beloved Cape Town, the time has come to stretch the company’s boundaries and look ahead to a bigger, bolder future, one that continues to deliver what the CEO describes as exceptional and reliable returns on investment.
Given this nationwide ambition, the conversation ends with a bold appraisal of the building industry across South Africa.
Berman concludes: “We believe the fundamentals in South Africa are very positive. South Africans have a global reputation for hard work, innovation and determination in the face of adversity. There’s every reason to believe we will overcome the current turbulence and the economy will rebound.
“I am well aware that we need to manage our social challenges and to grow our economic resilience. But this is where South Africa has a great track record – we do not wait for others to tell us how to fix things. We are the solution. We are a nation at one, committed to work, to build, to change and to progress.
“For us at Berman Brothers, this involves building for the future in pursuit of excellence. We strive to disrupt the status quo and set a new standard for greatness.”