Science Park in commercial oversupply

Posted On Wednesday, 27 June 2001 03:01 Published by
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Foundation director says proposed new science and technology development is likely to prosper because of its niche characteristics

Foundation director says proposed new science and technology development is likely to prosper because of its niche characteristics

ONLY the daring would commission a R1,6bn commercial property development in a market that shows strong signs of oversupply.

This was the general reaction within the property sector to last week's announcement of a proposed new science and technology centre in Centurion, on the outskirts of Pretoria.

The promoter of the ambitious development, The Star Foundation, is aware of the market oversupply, but sees it as a challenge.

Foundation director Marius Coetzee believes the centre to be called Star Galaxy will prosper despite harsh trading conditions, because of its niche characteristics. The idea is to service exclusively the science, technology and engineering industries. Observers, however, believe a niche development of this sort limits the choice of tenants in an already narrowed environment.

Coetzee's optimism stems from a 35% tenant commitment already secured for the development. He has declined to name the tenants.

Despite these commitments, The Star Foundation still needs further assurance from the market before forging ahead.

Last week's announcement of the plans included a call for private sector backing and proposals. This process will be the final determinant of whether the centre is built, says Coetzee. Nonetheless, he insists the building of Star Galaxy is almost a certainty. He describes it as a 'national resource for the advancement of science and technology'.

The proposals include three multifunctional high-rise buildings, with 231000m² of usable space, constructed on a 33ha piece of land alongside the N1 freeway. The development will provide 20000m² state-of-the-art information technology office block, retail shopping facilities to serve science and technology fields, a five-star hotel, a 'superdome' and a convention centre.

The plan also details a recording and animation studio, a telecommunications centre, a digital library, an exhibition centre, an education and training centre and a digital planetarium dome.

The site belongs to the Centurion city council which, together with the City of Tswane municipality, has already approved the project.

'The development framework identifies certain generic function zones such as mobility, enhanced visibility and improved accessibility to provide ideal development opportunities,' says Coetzee.

He declined to name all the players involved but said the centre had been endorsed by the Gauteng Economic Development Agency (Geda). The relationship between the project and Geda could see the science and technology centre house the intersection for the proposed high-speed train that will run between Johannesburg and Pretoria; as well as for the planned Centurion monorail project.

Viruly Consulting property economist Francois Viruly warns that, in the current market, developers have to be careful not to be too close to a niche as this does not offer much choice for tenants. Viruly says the commercial property market is likely to remain overtraded until about 2004.

Other commercial property developments, like Menlyn Park, a few kilometres away from the Star Galaxy site, have recently embarked on so-called 'edutainment' projects. This includes the establishment of science and technology centres within their premises


Publisher: Business Day
Source: Business Day

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