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Thursday Sep 18, 2014

Durban beachfront's largest property development takes shape

A R1.8 billion expansion of Durban's landmark Suncoast Casino has been given the nod, clearing the way for a doubling of the existing complex.

An artist's impression of the beachfront facades.

The project by Tsogo Sun will be the biggest single investment in the history of the beachfront and will take three years to complete.

All the necessary regulatory approvals are in place, now allowing detailed planning.

This follows the company's R220 million upgrade of the relaunched Southern Sun Elangeni and Maharani Hotels into one complex last year, with another R100m face-lift under way at the hospitality group's 33-year-old Marine Parade Garden Court.

The Suncoast expansion plan had to get the nod for an amendment to the casino licence conditions from the KZN Gaming and Betting Board - and the provincial government - as well as an amendment to the Integrated Development Plan for the precinct from the eThekwini Municipality

In terms of the application approved by the gaming board, Tsogo Sun will make R100m available to be spent on charitable or social infrastructural developments in the province.

A bird's eye view of the proposed project.

The attraction, which opened its doors almost 12 years ago, has 8million visitors a year and the expansion became necessary, as 'we have been at capacity for some time', said Mike Dowsley, the executive director of Suncoast Casino, Hotels and Entertainment, as it is now called.

'We are a hospitality and entertainment destination and we needed to improve our hospitality infrastructure,' he said yesterday, explaining that some events had to be staged in a tent, which was not ideal.

There is now going to be a 2 000-seat multi-purpose venue, a 22 000m retail mall, as well as additional restaurants and a new entertainment area and banqueting facilities.

There will also be resort-style rooftop swimming pools.

'The children's area will be enhanced with such attractions as 10-pin bowling,' Dowsley said.

There will be an additional 900 gaming machines in the casino, taking the number from 1 450 to 2 350.

And there will also be 16 more tables, taking that total to 80.

The expansion will take place northwards on part of the existing parking area.

A new parkade will go up and by the time the project is finished, there will be parking for some 5 900 vehicles, 2 680 more than at present.

Architects are now busy taking the project from the concept stage to the detailed planning phase, while a retail developer is researching the design of the retail mix.

'We have got to get the right mix - how many shops and restaurants there should be and what sort of restaurants they should be,' Dowsley said.

Once planning was complete, the project would go to tender and that process should take about three to four months, Dowsley said, adding that construction would start 'some time' next year.

Tsogo Sun's chief executive, Marcel von Aulock, said the group was delighted that the provincial government, the KZN Gaming and Betting Board and eThekwini Municipality had seen the value offered to the city and the province through the development.

And city manager, S'bu Sithole, said recently that he was also delighted with the continued faith shown in the city and province by Tsogo Sun.

He felt that 'a development of this scale would be a significant catalyst for the continued rejuvenation of the Durban beachfront'.

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