The final numbers are not in yet, but it certainly looks like a bumper festive season for Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, with record trade figures likely to add to confidence generated by an announcement about a new mixed-use R700m Canal District.
The company announced on December 8 that the development of the R700 million first phase of the Canal District was already under way, with a corporate head office for British American Tobacco South Africa (BAT South Africa) as the first project.
Final trade results for December will be available later this month, but early indications are that retail sales will be in excess of R750m for the month, up almost 10 percent on the previous year, according to Alex Kabalin, V&A retail executive.
From a footfall perspective, the V&A welcomed just more than 3.05 million people, the highest number for December on record. It may surprise some to hear that the focus of the V&A Waterfront, which can seem like a playground for foreigners burning through piles of rand bought cheaply, is primarily on locals, who account for 63 percent of visitors.
That said, a V&A spokesman told ANA on Friday that this year’s festive figures were likely boosted by a number of external events, such as Cape Town Sevens tournament at the beginning of December and the Boxing Day cricket test, which saw a strong contingent of English supporters taking advantage of the strength of their currency.
On the other side of the forex coin, another effect of the weakness of the rand is that more locals and up-country visitors choose not to travel overseas but rather explore South Africa in the increasingly popular “staycation”.
The V&A is well-placed to benefit from this. And not only because it is a “shopper’s paradise”, continuing to attract varied and interesting local and boutique offerings as well as flagship international stores such as H&M, which recently opened its first South African store in the centre.
The 123-hectare mixed-use destination is also one of Africa’s most visited cultural and historical hubs. Set on the edge of a natural, historic, working harbour and with Table Mountain as its backdrop, it offers visitors a mix of leisure, shopping and entertainment and has 22 official landmarks on-site.
Jointly owned by Growthpoint Properties and the Government Employees Pension Fund, represented by the Public Investment Corporation, the V&A Waterfront was developed in 1988 by state-owned railways company Transnet. Commercial trading commenced in November 1990 and since then development has seemed like something of an unstoppable train.
Third party economists from Stratecon (formerly EiS) did an economic impact assessment for the financial period 2012 to 2014, which showed that the V&A Waterfront has consistently maintained growth of over 10 percent in contribution to nominal GDP since 2002. The research also found that the waterfront had contributed R198 billion to the South African economy over the period assessed.
This mixed use property, equal in size to approximately 180 rugby fields, now has more than 80 eateries, various coffee shops, pubs and taverns, and a fresh food market.
The marina has 512 homes and there are more than 200 moorings and a thriving fishing industry. There are also various hotels, ranging from three to six stars, 40 business function rooms at 14 venues, and various museums, including the gateway to Robben Island and the Two Oceans Aquarium.
The 450-plus retailers are a key part of the experience for many … but not all. Last-minute shoppers still recovering from headaches and elbow injuries as a result of doing all their shopping in the last available minutes on December 24 may find it hard to believe that this year the V&A’s visitor numbers peaked on New Year’s Eve, with around 180,000 visitors.
Entertainers on five stages brought a record high for a 24-hour period, many of them staying to see in the new year with an even more explosive fireworks display than normal at midnight.
The V&A Waterfront welcomed 24 million visitors to the property in 2014, and all indications are that 2015’s numbers will be higher. Added to the festive extravaganza is the fact that almost 20,000 people live, work and play in the mixed-use property on a daily basis.
The new Canal District, which will total 75 000 sq m (or 7.6 hectares), looks set to build strongly on this. BAT South Africa will occupy 8 000 sq m in the south wing in the first building in the district, Amsterdam House, which is expected to be completed in November of this year.
V&A Waterfront Chief Executive David Green said recently: “The V&A Waterfront takes a holistic view of development as a space in which people can live, work and play. For a multinational company the size and calibre of BAT South Africa to select the Waterfront as the preferred destination for the relocation of its head office is of significance, and speaks to the popularity of our development initiatives.”
The V&A Waterfront’s acquisition of the Amway and Queen’s Hotel buildings in 2014 also strengthens the Waterfront’s relationship with the city by creating a connection to Buitengracht Street.
Green told ANA on Thursday: “The core vision for development at the property is based on connecting downtown Cape Town with the sea, while still preserving the fascinating historical fabric of the area for generations to come. We believe the Canal District offers such an example.”
Green has said that demand for commercial space at the V&A Waterfront was driving development in this district, which “is also a piece in the jigsaw puzzle that provides a seamless link through to the CTICC and Cape Town’s CBD”.
BACK-STORY: The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
1654 Dutch traders traversing the seas in search of exotic goods such as teas and spices from the East established a small refreshment station in a bay at the tip of Africa.
That bay was Table Bay and the station grew into the City of Cape Town
Ships wintering in Table Bay were often damaged in the so-called ‘Cape of Storms’ so construction began on a safe harbour in 1860. The small landing jetty built by the Dutch grew into the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, named after Queen Victoria and her second son Prince Alfred
In 1938, reclamation began on a 230 hectare tract of land originally undersea, and the new Foreshore allowed for city expansion
In November 1988, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront company was established to redevelop the historic docklands around the Victoria and Alfred basins as a mixed-use area with a focus on retail, tourism and residential development, with the continued operation of a working harbour
Commercial trading commenced in November in 1990 – African News Agency (ANA)