Concerns over City of Tshwane’s tallest building in Africa

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Org Geldenhuys, Managing Director of Abacus Divisions Org Geldenhuys, Managing Director of Abacus Divisions

Concerns are growing over the City of Tshwane’s plans to build ‘the tallest building in Afrca’ situated in Centurion when the council has been in the press over concerns that it is getting deeper into the red, and is not controlling its finances properly - besides concerns that this project would be a flagrant waste of money.

Adding his concern, Org Geldenhuys, managing director of property development and management company, abacus DIVISIONS – which is active in the area – said that there is currently a high rate of office vacancies in the Centurion area, “which should first be tackled by the council”.  “On top of that – and the risk of arguably building on dolomite – why would a cash-strapped council want to spend such a huge amount of money on a ‘brag item’ when there are so many other projects that need more urgent attention.? Why do we need to construct the highest building in Africa, for what purpose?”

Negative feedback from many quarters comes after a recent press announcement by Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa that the centurion symbol-city project will consist of two offices and one residential tower, including office and retail facilities.

“Besides pondering what this would cost the tax payer – and would the pivotal need for this project is – centurion already has a very large retail centre which ably suits the approximately 300 000 residents. With this centre – and the other retail outlets in the area- what need is there for this hybrid office and retail development? It makes no sense whatsoever expect, perhaps, for council members to leave a mark on their office tenures by leaving some kind of legacy? But, in all earnest, do we need a legacy such as this – the largest building in Africa – when the council needs to look at more pressing social and infrastructure issues?”

Geldenhuys said the ‘powers that be’ should rather use the money to reduce office vacancies in the area, upgrade area infrastructure, improve security, and fund fibre optic projects to boost efficiencies - and to make it more attractive for people to move businesses to the Centurion node. “Centurion has also been made more accessible than other business nubs – such as Sandton – because of its easy access via the Gautrain. This is something that can be capitalised on. The really is no need to embark on such a massive – and wasteful – project.”

Gerhard Marais, the chairman of the Centurion Business Chamber, said organized business has not been consulted over the project, with the chamber first hearing of the plans through the media.

Geldenhuys also pointed out that the Centurion Mall, near the problematic and putrid Centurion Lake- which has been a headache for many years – should first be the beneficiary of the council’s attention as it was continually causing concern for businesses in the area.

Meanwhile, the Centurion Business Chamber is concerned about the impact the proposed development will have on existing investors who have sunk large amounts of money into retail and office space and into the surrounding hospitality industry. Currently the office vacancy in recently-built office parks in the district is standing at 40 000 square metres.

“Given this information, alone, what purpose does this mammoth project serve?” asked Geldenhuys. He said estimates reveal that office rent will be around R250m2 in order to “make the project viable”, when businesses can currently find office space at prestigious office parks in the area, such as Highveld Techno Park, starting at R80 per square metre.

 “Besides the over-riding worry that the building might be constructed in a dolomite-ridden area, which business person would want to pay R250 per square metre when he can get the same benefits from R80 per square metre? Based on some of these facts, this project – if it goes ahead – is doomed to failure. It will also serve to upset the financial dynamics of the area – which will also have a material knock-on effect.

“Indeed,” said Geldenhuys, “some people suggest that controversial government leases are as high as this R250 per square metre figure that has been mooted for the project. Prudent business managers know that, in the economic times we live in, one needs to look at value for money. This makes this project ludicrous if you simply consider the comparison of paying rentals – for up market office space – of around R80 per square metre in office parks such as Highveld Techno Park, which has even better access than the planned project with access directly from the N1 highway with the newly constructed Witch-Hazel off ramp.”



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