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Tuesday May 29, 2012

Centurion businesses up in arms over possible effect of 447m-high development

News of the planned Centurion sky scraper - planned to be the tallest in Africa and the 14th tallest freestanding structure in the world - has sent waves of confusion and unhappiness across the suburb's business community, which is worried about the effect it will have on their ventures.

Centurion Lake is the proposed site for Centurion Symbio-city, which will feature the tallest building in Africa.

Centurion Symbio-city, as it will be known, will feature the tallest building in Africa and will have one residential and two office towers. In addition to this, Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa said last week, it would include hotels, retail facilities and a convention centre.

The tallest tower in the mini-city will be 110 storeys high and will be flanked by two towers of 80 and 60 floors each. The height of the tallest tower will be 447m and it will be linked to the convention centre by an underground walkway.

Work on the multimillion-rand project was expected to start before the end of the year, council sources said yesterday, and the project could take anything up to eight years to complete.

Businesses around the Centurion lakeside mall, where it is expected to be built, said Centurion was going through an economic slump and would not be able to handle the influx a project of this nature could bring. "That we will be rid of the problems with Centurion Lake is good news and so is the fact that we will have conferencing facilities in our business area, but that we have no less that 4 000m² of vacant office space in Centurion presents another problem," said the chairman of the Centurion Business Chamber, Gerhard Marais.

An artist impression of Symbio-city.

The question, he said, was where business to occupy the buildings would come from. "They will either be attracted from outside or they will move from existing space." This, he said, would further cripple the economy.

Centurion was not ready to handle a project of this nature, businesspeople said. That the project was situated within 50m of two hotels - Centurion Lake Hotel, to the east, and Protea Hotel, to the west, also defied business sense, they added.

The lack of consultation on the matter was a sore point, with the hotels and restaurants situated on the lake saying that the first time

Nthey had heard about the project was in the media. "We were never consulted," Centurion Lake Hotel chief executive Andrew van Hasselt said. The hotel had been built around the lake's existence and, managers of eateries on the mall's lakeside said, they were paying dearly for the prime space they occupied.

"We spent a lot of money on renovations to our deck to ensure customers have the perfect view. We are worried that this will stop existing," Cappuccinos spokesman said.

His sentiment was shared by other restaurant managers who said the lack of information only confused and scared people and could drive their customers away.

Capital City Business Chamber chief executive Fanie du Plessis applauded the city for bringing a project that could accommodate conventions of the nature that Sandton City could, saying it was important for the city not to lose such events to Midrand's Gallagher Estate. .Business people in the city did, however, deserve to be consulted.

International money was coming in for the development, which would change the face of the Centurion CBD. The roads system and infrastructure are set to be upgraded and the project, the Pretoria News was told yesterday, is at least five or so years in discussions and consultations. The revelation of the plans last week were a mere formality.

Said one metro official: "It's a huge project. It's massive and by the end of the year, heavy trucks will be rushing to and fro, disrupting the normal flow of business - from public transport to people travelling to and from work and people going about their leisure business and those going shopping, yet no one, not even the residents of Centurion, has been given a chance to discuss it, absorb it and prepare for it."

But Ramokgopa said last week the development was a reflection of the range of economic opportunities, cultural experiences, safety and a quality physical environment that Tshwane offers. He said it would create jobs - more than 10 000 during construction and 4 000 afterwards.

Pretoria News

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