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Thursday Feb 07, 2013

Big plans for commercial properties at OR Tambo

Plans for the much-awaited Ekurhuleni aerotropolis, which is intended to transform the OR Tambo International Airport into an iconic commercial destination, will reach a significant milestone soon as the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) expects approvals for some of its projects this month.

Tebogo Mekgoe, the general manager of OR Tambo, said yesterday that an environmental assessment to develop part of the airport's land that Acsa bought from state arms manufacturer Denel had been concluded and a developer had been appointed.

The Ekurhuleni aerotropolis concept was announced in 2011 and Acsa has since been engaging with the municipality on how it would zone patches of land across OR Tambo International Airport.

The idea is to bring businesses closer to the airport so that they get a competitive advantage while OR Tambo will get more commercial value out of surrounding land.

"An aerotropolis presents integration and the benefits would be huge. There have been a lot of disjointed efforts since 1993 as far as developing transport infrastructure is concerned," Mekgoe said.

OR Tambo International Airport services the entire African continent and provides links to major cities throughout the world. Most of the international airlines fly directly into the airport.

Mekgoe said the idea was to create a commercial square, with the possibility of having more hotels, shopping facilities and a conference centre.

At present, OR Tambo generates about 42 percent of its revenue from commercial operations, which was a significant increase from the 5 percent it generated in 1996 before expanding its infrastructure.

With the proposed development, the airport would aim for 60 percent commercial revenue, because this was the norm for most major airports around the world.

The existing airport terminal sits on the western side of the airport land. The piece of land that Acsa bought from Denel is on the eastern side. OR Tambo management has earmarked this land for mixed-use development.

Between the two airport runways is an open field, which Mekgoe said had been earmarked for airport terminal expansion. This would result in OR Tambo having two separate passenger terminals.

The second terminal would be built to accommodate 40 million passengers a year. At present, OR Tambo has capacity for 28 million passengers, and passenger volumes were about 19 million at the end of 2012.

But development of a second passenger terminal was only on the cards in the next 38 years and these plans could change.

"Air travel can change very drastically before that," Mekgoe said.

He said that, based on airline schedules, passenger numbers were expected to remain flat in the 2013 financial year.

Business Report

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