City skyline set for revamp

Views from my hotel room over Cape Town CBD

Developments to the value of R13 billion are expected to be completed in the CBD between now and 2020, among them buildings currently under construction, developments planned and proposed developments.

This is according to the City Central Improvement District (CCID).

FWJK, arguably one of the largest developers in the CBD right now, is responsible for at least six of these developments, which includes two skyscrapers, one of which, upon completion, will be the highest building in the city centre.

The total cost of their developments in the city centre – proposed and under way – is over R3.8 billion

The latest of the lot is a R1.2 billion, 36-storey proposed development called The Vogue, in Buitengracht Street, which is currently being considered by the City.

According to FWJK CEO, Dave Williams-Jones, the company jumped at the opportunity to develop this site as “we saw it as an opportunity to design and develop a tall building in a great location and participate in urbanisation in the city centre.

“Our development objective was to create our own pipeline of work for our in-house architects, project managers and quantity surveyors but at the same time to create a development which will help bring people to live in the inner city.”

He said one of the design challenges was to respect the heritage asset which included a brick chimney dating back to 1800s, and building a tower around it.

“Our architecture division has created a vibey entertainment oriented streetscape environment around the heritage building and chimney which will celebrate the heritage value of the site.” Construction is expected to start by March next year and will be completed by October 2020.

FWJK is also responsible for the R400 million mixed-use KPMG Place at the Foreshore, of which the embattled audit company KPMG, is the anchor tenant.

KPMG recently made headlines following dealings with Gupta-linked companies. The millions which they reportedly have to pay for a SARS report, as well as R40 million earnings the company will donate, as well as the R9 million lawsuit they now face, raised questions about the future of the construction of its soon to be headquarters.

However, Mr Williams-Jones said the building, set to be complete in 2018, will still go up, and that the KPMG scandal had not affected the timeline in any way.

He said KPMG would occupy at least 40 percent of the building and that there had been no indication that the company needed less space. “There is a valid and binding agreement in place and the law does not permit the cancellation of the lease as KPMG is not in breach of the lease agreement.”

He said FWJK is the developer of the project for Ziningi properties, which owns the development.

Upon completion, KPMG Place will incorporate the latest energy and water saving technologies.

Mr Williams-Jones was unable to disclose who the other tenants in the building will be.

But the highlight for the company is the Zero2one development, on the corner of Adderley and Strand streets, which, on completion, will be the tallest building in the CBD. The mixed-use development is a proposed 42-storey building, 148 metres in height, and is set to have 624 apartments, 760 parking bays and retail space.

“Zero2one is purely residential with retail shops on the lowest floor. We have had over 3 000 applications for our New York-style apartments,” said Mr Williams-Jones.

He said residential apartments were selling out quickly in the city centre because there remained an unprecedented demand from people who wanted to live in the city centre because of the great lifestyle – and to avoid traffic.”

That being said, the Zer2One proposal has been met with an appeal from housing activists Ndifuna Ukwazi to incorporate affordable housing into the development.

Senior researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi, Justin Sendin, said FWJK had applied for departures because of the scale of the building, which was a lot higher than what was permitted, and up to 50 percent more building rights.

He added that it would be unacceptable if the City could not secure affordable housing from the tallest building in the city. “We have a housing crisis in Cape Town, and the City tells us about the lack of housing, but they keep giving away land rights for free, and they sell public land for private development.”

He said cities around the world used these land rights to negotiate inclusive housing.

“The advantage with getting the private sector involved is that the city does not have the resources, and the processes take a long time. However, the city needs to negotiate effectively and ask for inclusive housing in exchange for the land rights or departures. The developers will still make money.”

He said while the City was pushing for inclusive housing, the fact that everything must be “policy-driven” was delaying the process.

“We need the City to pick projects and we want them to know that this must be on the top of the list. We are not against development because it must happen, but it must be inclusive.”

Mr William-Jones said FWJK had met with Ndifuna Ukwazi last week and had had a fruitful discussion.

He said they had planned to meet again to explore areas of common interest. “We also explained that we had changed our plans to now provide for 10 floors or 510 apartments which would sell at prices starting from R800 000.”

He said plans for inclusive housing were being applied in practice. However, Mr Sendin said while the discussion was ongoing, everyone was talking past each other.

“What eventually happens is that a developer throws his hands up and says ‘okay I will incorporate inclusive housing’, but when it is built, it is nowhere near what the City or people understand as affordable housing.”

Brett Herron, the City’s mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, said last month that the City had hosted an affordable housing dialogue with various stakeholders, including private developers, social housing institutions, architects, and civil society groups. He said one discussion point was how stakeholders could get involved in their professional context in helping the City of Cape Town to deliver affordable housing opportunities in better locations. He said at the dialogue it was agreed that all stakeholders – public and private – had a role to play in changing Cape Town and reversing the legacy of apartheid spatial planning where the majority of lower-income households live on the fringes of the city, far removed from work and other opportunities.

Mr Herron said that over the next 20 years, up to 650 000 households would need some form of assistance from the City for housing.

CCID chairman, Rob Kane, said the city centre had about seven buildings aimed specifically at housing students and, in some instances, also young working professionals.

According to the last State of Cape Town Central City Report, he said, accommodation in the city ranged from R2 850 for a double room, sharing to R6 000 a month for a studio apartment.

“However, in terms of the affordable housing to which Ndifuna Ukwazi and of course now the City of Cape Town refer, there has been none of this to date in the CBD, which – until the mid-2000s – was largely only a commercial downtown, with a very small residential component.”

Mr Kane said that if a downtown aimed to be a successful, densified and therefore resilient live, work and play destination, then its vibrancy depended on the inclusion of the many economic levels that make up a CBD’s workforce.
“Right now, a huge part of the Central City’s workforce spend the lion’s share of their income just on transportation, not to mention the many hours spent in transit.”

However, he added, “One must remember that private developers are not NGOs, and they pay market-related prices for private land. In the City’s public-private partnership models, the City will be making the land available and this makes a huge difference when trying to keep costs at a level that will enable affordable housing.”