Cape Town CBD not in decline

Posted On Monday, 01 January 2001 03:01 Published by
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THE central business district of Cape Town, which was described recently in a Cape newspaper as showing signs of a decline, is, in fact, on an upward path,

THE central business district of Cape Town, which was described recently in a Cape newspaper as showing signs of a decline, is, in fact, on an upward path, with excellent prospects for improved cleanliness, safety and better rentals.
So says Darren Wilder, Administrative and Leasing Director for Spearhead Properties, the Cape-headquartered group which owns some R350m worth of office and retail property in the Greater Cape Town areas.
"Our figures at Spearhead," said Mr Wilder, "indicate clearly that the demand for space in the CBD has picked up noticeably in the first quarter of this year. In addition, our vacancy factor has now dropped very close to 4,5%."
Mr Wilder pointed out that those interviewed for the newspaper article had mostly been involved in decentralised projects themselves. They would, therefore, have a vested interest in promoting these. The article, he added, said that the recently established, decentralised offices, particularly those at Century City and Westlake, had drawn off many of the major corporates and big businesses.
"There is definitely a truth in this," said Mr Wilder, "but it remains a fact that 85% of Cape Town's tenants are fairly small businesses and firms, which require premises of between 100m2 and 500m2. Those who have left are mostly in the super league and very well resourced. The type of firm or organisation that the CBD caters particularly well for is not large and requires rentals between R30 and R40 per m2. The CBD also caters particularly well for those who want to be able to walk to the premises of their clients, colleagues, suppliers and services.
A big factor in the CBD's favour, he said, is that it gives tenants the ability to service the many thousands of clients who rely on public transport.
"The remarks made about the public services and transport in the article were, I believe, exaggerated. The plain fact is that the vast majority of people still travel to the Cape Town CBD by means of taxis and busses, and most of them still find the service satisfactory," he said.
Asked if the high level of security in the new decentralised centres is not a big plus factor, Mr Wilder said, "Again, it is quite true that security is now top priority for most tenants, especially those who, like the IT companies, often work late and employ many women. Nevertheless, it should be recognised that the initial steps already taken to improve the CBD are proving highly effective. Crime figures are already some 40% down on those experienced at the beginning of last year and cleanliness is improving. If those involved continue to persevere in their efforts, I believe there is every prospect of the CBD once again being an extremely safe place to work and live. The feedback from our own tenants indicates that they are now far more satisfied with the security situation in the CBD."
Mike Flax, MD of the Spearhead Group, said that the central cities "take on" an atmosphere and ambience of their own which, he said, is wholly different and far more authentic than that of the newly created, beautifully landscaped and decorated decentralised complexes.
"Anyone walking down St George's Mall will know exactly what I mean," he said. "You are surrounded by history and buildings with historical association. So, by contrast, a decentralised development will often be prettier and even more efficient, but it can never have the same atmosphere.
Provided that the City Fathers continue to ensure that the handful of street kids and vagrants are now kept under control, I believe the CBD will always retain its appeal for hotel managers, professionals, businessmen and retailers. After all, it is almost 350 years old, and, most people agree, the most attractive city in South Africa."

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