An unusable wasteland – a marshy piece of ground. Most property developers wouldn’t look at it twice. But that’s the site of what’s now Century City in Cape Town. It’s taken visionaries to see the potential.
This development arose at a time when there was an increasing demand for land for construction purposes near to the city. The sole reason it was looked at with any interest was its location close to the city and to nearby business areas like Paarden Eiland and Maitland.
The site was initially earmarked for affordable housing and the original developer, Ilco Homes, which developed what was then known as Summer Greens, ran into financial difficulties.
The development was then taken over by Monex Ltd whose MD, Martin Wragge, realised that, to succeed, would require the land to be rezoned as a mixed-use development as low cost housing could not support the level of services required, in particular to deal with the high water table and to provide direct access to the N1.
The rezoning was a seminal moment in the history of the area. It provided for rights for a wide range of types of properties – commercial, residential, retail and leisure – and so this mixed-use feature allowed for the creation of a place where one can work, live, shop and spend one’s leisure time.
Construction began in 1997. The interest shown by large corporate businesses like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Vodacom, the Louis Group, Unisys and Business Connexion, in establishing their offices in the precinct was an important step in turning this new area into a sought-after location. The opening of Ratanga Junction and the Canal Walk Shopping Centre followed.
“The Rabie Group got involved in Century City in 2004,” explains John Chapman, a director of Rabie Property Group, “when we acquired the remaining undeveloped land and associated rights. These rights provided for the development of 1,25 million m2of property, the bulk of which has since been developed. The remaining 250 000 m2will be developed in line with market demand.”
Over the years, the project has involved the investment of over R23 billion, a sizeable sum flowing into the economy of Cape Town. Investment continues apace, and current construction includes a major office development which will include new regional offices for Discovery.
According to Cohen, “Century City’s situation is clearly a big factor in making this an attractive area for business – near to the city as well as to many of the suburbs of Cape Town, and the area is well-serviced by public transport. We also know that the clean and safe environment appeals.”
These factors, coupled with the investment value of the properties in this private estate, have led to a precinct with more than 500 businesses and 3 500 residential homes.
One of the latest developments at this city-within-a-city has been the introduction of a Marriott Hotel, the signature brand of the world’s largest hotel group, Marriott International. This brand was ushered in through the recent conversion of the African Pride Crystal Towers Hotel to the Cape Town Marriott Hotel Crystal Towers.
“It’s extremely positive for Century City to showcase a global giant like Marriott Hotels. The credibility of the brand internationally adds gravitas to our tenant directory, and we will no doubt see many more visitors from around the world coming to Century City because of the presence of a hotel under this brand,” says Cohen.