Dubai World spending 1-billion at Cape Town's Waterfront

Posted On Monday, 08 January 2007 02:00 Published by
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As the first stage of development of the Victoria and Alfred (V&A) waterfront in Cape Town gets under way

Dubai World spending $1-billion at Cape Town's Waterfront and introducing expertise that turned Dubai into an iconic city

As the first stage of development of the Victoria and Alfred (V&A) waterfront in Cape Town gets under way, South Africans are keen to discover what the UK-Dubai buyers are planning and what roll-on benefits the sale may have for the country, and its construction and tourism sectors, in particular.

The government and the privatesector have expressed the hope that South Africa’s benefits from the sale will not be limited to the fixed capital that the international buyers are expected to invest and attract,but will extend to the wealth ofexperience in timely, cost-conscious construction that the Middle East developers bring to the table.

(The Burj Dubai, which the city is determined will be the tallest building in the world – the final height has not been made public to avoid competitors catching up – is being built at the rate of a new level every three days.) David Spencer, who heads the leisure business of Istithmar, the private equity arm of government-owned Dubai World, says the world’s fastest growing city has muchexperience to offer South Africa, particularly in light of the government’s formidable R409-billion infrastructural-investment programme.

Istithmar earlier this year partnered with London & Regional, of the UK, and a black economic-empowerment (BEE) grouping in a successful $1-billion bid for thelucrative V&A development.

The waterfront attracts over 22-million people every year.

In keeping with the fast-trackapproach, technical planning for the development had already begun two weeks after the transaction had been inked, Spencer says.

In an interview with Engineering News at the Dubai World head-quarters, he and Nakheel Hotels & Resorts (also part of Dubai World) CEO James Wilson speak optimis-tically, not only on prospects for the development of the waterfront and further investments in South Africa, but also – contagiously so – on the country’s ability andpreparations to host the Fifa World Cup in 2010.

“We have had a very goodreception in Cape Town, the Western Cape and from the country,” says Wilson, whose company has been tasked with the development of the waterfront.

“And, while everything has been done within the due processes, the authorities have gone out of their way to facilitate the investment – it is clear to me that the country wants to do business,” he says.

Wilson has already met with top local decision makers, including Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, and is unequivocal in his assertion that the country will make asuccess of the $1-billion football event.

Dubai World has indicated that it will spend at least $1-billion on developing ‘Africa’s Riviera’ before the World Cup begins and is considering supporting the initiative by part funding and construction of a new boulevard between thewaterfront and the still-to-be-built stadium, Wilson reveals.

This was included in the deal with the V&A’s previous owners – State-owned Transnet and itspension funds – and honours an earlier promise to see that thewaterfront facilitates ‘seamlessintegration’ between the Cape Town central business district and the World Cup stadium, which the city announced in November may be built on the Metropolitan golf course on Green Point common, rather than on the site of the existing stadium.

The new stadium, expected to cost at least R2,5-billion, will be within walking distance of thewaterfront.

Of the 135 ha of the V&A property,only 55% has been developed,and it is clear that the London and Dubai consortium plans to make optimal use of the remaining 45% – a portion of which is currently underwater.

Atkins, the UK’s largest engineering consultancy – and the world’s third-largest global design firm – has been retained as master planner and is creating and refining drawings in consultation with the ownersand the city.

‘Don’t expect a mini Dubai’
Although Nakheel is behind a number of the emirate’s more prolific projects, including the iconic eighth-wonder-of-the-world Palm Island developments, Wilson is quick to stress that the new develop-ment and design will build on and echo the existing themes and style of the waterfront and city.

“We are planning to expand on the architectural style of Cape Town, and not to create a mini Dubai,” he states.

South African Shaun Killa, who heads the architecture department at Atkins Middle East’s Dubaioffice, agrees.

“We want to be contextuallysensitive in terms of building heights, existing spatial proportions and building articulation,” he says.

“While we have some exciting ideas for developments, there is no question that we will be usingsimilar design themes and building on what is already there.” That said, Nakheel may tap into its experience in reclamation, with a focus on making best use of the coastline.

(While Dubai hadoriginally between 72 kmand 75 km of coastline, this is now being increased to 1 700 km through reclamation projects like the Palm Islands and the World)

Beaches and bedrooms
Fittingly, Killa, a Cape-tonian himself, was involved in the architectural design of phase one of the waterfront’s construction, before joining Atkins in Dubai.

Two key themes of the upcoming development will be the opening up of more water to the public and the provision of resort hotels with associated residential accommodation. This will also be complemented with more retail and public attractions. The planners are also lookingto reduce the surface parking so that the streets become more pedestrian orientated.

“So far, we have already come up with several ideas which have been well received by the owners and the city.” On timeframes, Killa says that there are a number of levels ofstrategic planning under way.

“With the 2010 target, there is certainly a critical mass of develop-ment that the consortium would like to complete.

“But we aren’t just workingtowards one all-important dead-line; there are six-month, three-year and five- to ten-year plans,” he says.

“Having a powerful developer consortium also allows for a lot of opportunities to review the waterfront development as a totality and master-plan for future seamlessintegration into the Cape Town CBD,” says Killa.

“The V&A did exceptionally well under the constraints of having to develop each part of the waterfront in relatively small phases.

“However, we now have the chance to take a step back and look at our opportunities and, as London & Regional, Istithmar, Nakheeland ourselves have experience in developing three-, four-, five- and six-star resort hotels, we are confident that we possess the knowledge to create successful destinations that will keep tourists in Cape Town for longer,” he says.

According to a four-year develop-ment strategy presented last month by Dubai World chair Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem and Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool (on an official visit to Dubai), stageone of the project, starting immediately and continuing over the next six months, will involve landscaping and beautification measures, additional car parking space, commercial facilities and improvements to pedestrian access to the area.

Stage two will “ensure the water-front is one of the highlights of World Cup 2010” and stage three will involve new facilities to consolidate the waterfront’s status as a leading global resort, with potential elements including a new yacht club and further marina development, a cruise ship terminal, a train station and improved connections to the airport, said Bin Sulayem.

At the canal area there will be a gateway, with a ‘mini-Sandton’-type development, made up ofoffices and loft apartments.

In terms of accommodation, there are several developments alreadyin the pipeline, with more almost certainly on the way, as globalhospitality giants eye Africa’spremier property, leisure and retail development.

“We have already had everytop-ten hotel group in the worldapproach us over opportunities at the V&A,” remarks Wilson.

The consortium is looking to build-ing a number of hotel properties, including a 250-bedroom luxury hotel, such as a Four Seasons, and a resort hotel, as Wilson points out that there is, oddly, no resort option in the city.

It will also help to open up more water and beach areas to the public.

Further, Kerzner International, in which Dubai World holds a minor interest, will build a One and Only luxury hotel along the existing apartment strip, Wilson reveals.

On plans for a cruise terminal, he tells Engineering News that this could also have important implications for the city’s World Cup plans, should it be completed by 2010.

“It’s all very well planning toaccommodate an estimated 100 000spectators in hotels and other tradi-tional establishments, but whathappens when the event ends and they all go home? Cruise-liners offer an innovative and very practicalalternative,” he suggests.

Investment obligations
Sustainability and creating local value were important considerations in the consortium’s selection aspreferred bidder for the waterfront.

On the skills-transfer front, Killa is keen to ensure interaction between his office and local contractors. “While Atkins has tremendous in-house expertise, we will certainlywant to work with people already in the local market. We are looking at bringing in architects, engineers and other disciplines from South Africa,” he says.

Both Nakheel’s and Atkins’s UAE offices have history with South African construction groups, a number of which – the likes of Murray & Roberts and Group 5 –have done particularly well in the region.

Aside from basic BEE employment equity and procurementobligations, Wilson says all current employees have been guaranteed jobs for two years.

BEE is not a wholly foreign concept to the Dubai companies, as theemirate operates under relativelysimilar principles – any companydoing business outside its free trade zones must have a local partner.

The developers will also take steps to ensure the sustainability of the development.

Publisher: Engineering News
Source: Engineering News

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