Durban’s more than just a pretty face

Posted On Monday, 19 March 2012 02:00 Published by
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It seems Durban is experiencing a flurry of commercial and industrial property and infrastructure investment at micro and macro levels. But the publicity the city has received has been mixed of late

Looking past Durban’s 'pretty face' of the Moses Mabhida Stadium, uShaka, the new beachfront and golden mile, the proximity to world class game reserves and the Berg, not to mention the many attractions of the Seaside life style, one is still compelled to take Durban seriously as South Africa’s third largest, and often forgotten, commercial hub.

It seems Durban is experiencing a flurry of commercial and industrial property and infrastructure investment at micro and macro levels. But the publicity the city has received has been mixed of late. It was one of those "do you want to hear the good news or the bad news" scenarios at the beginning of the year.

The Good news was that Durban had 'a bumper festive season' where tourists spent an estimated R1.2Billion offset against the R500 million spent by the city improving infrastructure. The bad news was the findings of the research study conducted by development economists Urban Econ on behalf of SAPOAthat Durban is the most expensive South African city to live in compared with Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The study was based on tariffs applicable to new residential, retail, office and industrial property developments, from zoning and subdivisional fees to building plan fees, connection charges, consumption charges and rates. It turns out eThekwini is on average 30% more expensive than other cities. The major difference in eThekwini is the existence of a ‘development surcharge’which some are challenging as unlawful.  Some say this is causing development to flee the city boundaries. Time will tell.

A point in case may be Ballito, since it’s outside of the grip of eThekweni. Ballito has recently launched a major business services park. Some say the development promises to reposition the North Coast as a serious industrial property contender. The move brings online 9 light industrial zoned serviced platforms totalling 18.5 hectares offering multi-use options from warehousing and factories to show-rooms, offices and mini units.

Given the lack of similar space available between Durban and King Shaka the future looks bright for the business service park.

Back to eThekwini though. Bridge City, in Durban’s Kwamashu/Phoenix intersection has been trading since Oct 2009. But phases of this urban renewal project continue to be built which includes, among other things, residential apartments, a 500 bed state hospital, a regional magistrates court and government offices. 

Last October saw the completion of Bridge City's underground railway station situated beneath the mall. The development which is being linked to a bus and taxi hub will be an intermodal transportation facility easing road congestion and providing convenient transportation for about 613,000 residents in the surrounding areas of lnanda, KwaMashu, Ntuzuma and Phoenix.

A retail warehousing Business Park is the next phase of the 60ha Bridge City development and its launch will bring 12 hectares to the market. The Business Park is ideally suited to retail warehousing, construction related activities and training facilities. The Bridge City Town Centre is priced from R950/m2 for commercial/retailbulk and R300/m2 for residential bulk. The remaining permitted bulk in Bridge City Town Centre is 490 000m2 which will include approximately  4500 residential units, with the balance of 290 000m2 of bulk being for prime business space. Bridge City has been earmarked by eThekwini Municipality as "a catalyst for economic growth in KZN".

But it’s not all about big developments.  Chantal Williams, leasing and sales broker for JHI Properties in KwaZulu-Natal has drawn a lot of attention having concluded in excess of 85 transactions for the lease and sale of commercial property in the region, receiving an award for achieving the highest individual sales turnover for any JHI Properties broker nationally.

"Standalone homes converted to commercial use and situated in good locations in Durban’s Morningside area, as well as prime office accommodation in La Lucia Office Park continue to solicit a high level of interest and enquiries," says Williams. "The nodes which are most in demand are predominantly Morningside, Durban North and Umhlanga, with the size range mainly from 80-500sqm most sought after, and occasionally slightly larger premises".

In Durban’s CBD Williams recently concluded a transaction for 1036sqm of office accommodation for a call centre, LikeMinds, which has relocated to Durban Bay House - a building which has been upgraded to AAA grade.

Craig Ireland, director of LikeMinds, says the decision to make a home for the firm in the CBD was because all their staff use public transport. "Being in the city centre makes it very easy for staff to commute from a number of different locations, coupled with the fact that the concentration of retail in the CBD is a positive factor for our staff. A further attraction is the rejuvenation of the building, which will enable it to attract a good calibre of tenant as well as additional business," says Ireland.

Finally though not exhaustively, land developer TongaatHulett is developing the Umhlanga Ridgeside quicker than you can shout economic slowdown. The four-phased Ridgesidedevelopment consists of 140 ha of land creating a triangle bordered by Umhlanga Rocks Drive, the M4 and M41, that links Gateway, La Lucia Ridge Office Estate, The Manors, Lower La Lucia and Umhlanga Rocks Drive. It is ideally positioned along the busy North Coastcorridor, just 15 km north of the Durban CBD and harbour and only 10 km south of King Shaka International Airport.

The development, which offers residential, retail and leisure opportunities, and has included major improvements to the road infrastructure in the area, is expected to create 125 000 jobs over the 10 year development period. Investec, Vodacom and BDO have made Ridgeside their KZN home, and in the development sector, Zenprop, JT Ross Construction, Maponya, ERIS and a consortium headed up by FWJK Quantity Surveyors are making their presence felt.

There’s much commercial and infrastructural activity in the city of surf and turf. It’s a healthy mixture of private sector, local and national government input. How the city is run is going to require hard-core engagement from locals and business to see to it that the cream isn’t skimmed off the top for the fat cats that can smell investment from a long distance.


Publisher: eProp
Source: eProp

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