Durban’s 91-year-old Clairwood racecourse site looks set to be transformed into a new warehouse and distribution centre to service the new dig-out port at the old international airport.
After months of speculation about the future of the racecourse, Capital Property Fund director Andrew Teixeira confirmed yesterday that the Gold Circle group had accepted his company’s offer to buy the racecourse for R430 million.
“We would like to develop a logistics park. With the dig-out port development our planning is around warehousing and distribution,” he said.
Teixeira said Capital Property Fund’s core business was property, so the racecourse had caught their attention because of its prime location next to the harbour and industrial area.
Gold Circle chairman Robert Mauvis said the sale had the blessing of its membership, although the deal still needed approval from the Competition Board.
However, the sale is also dependent on a successful re-zoning of the land and an environmental impact assessment, and local ratepayers and environmental groups signalled last night that the proposed new land use was likely to be opposed by them.
Mauvis said the racecourse would be leased to Gold Circle for the next two years as part of the agreement of sale, during which time the Greyville racecourse would be upgraded and improved.
“The track and condition of the Clairwood racecourse will of course be maintained during this period and we will move the stables. The two-year lease kickback works in our favour so that we can build new stables,” he said.
Teixeira said that after the two-year lease expired, it would take about a year for Capital Property Fund to fully develop the site.
According to the eThekwini Municipality’s development planning, environment and management department, the racecourse is zoned as “private open space”.
Mauvis said the application to the Competition Board could take between four weeks and three months to be approved.
“In my opinion, the transactions should all go through by the end of August. This is very exciting news for racing in the province… We will restructure the business and focus on two racecourses,” he said.
The new stables would be built at the Summerveld Training Centre.
Gold Circle operates the Greyville and Clairwood Park racecourses in Durban and Scottsville in Pietermaritzburg. Mauvis said having three racecourses was no longer financially viable. “Having three racecourses is an expensive business; it is expensive to maintain a racecourse.”
The Clairwood property has been on the market for years. It caught the attention of developers because of its prime position near the South Durban Basin industries and the old airport.
Clairwood Ratepayers and Residents Association chairman Rishi Singh said it would oppose any industrial development on the racecourse site that added to the existing load of air pollution in the South Durban Basin area.
“The developers must consult residents before development takes place because the (South Durban Basin) is one of the most polluted areas in South Africa. Any development that involves carbon emissions would be detrimental to residents,” he said.
Singh said the association would also strongly oppose any development that attracted more trucks to the area and he called on the government to ensure that goods were transported via rail.
Desmond D’Sa, of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, indicated previously that the alliance would protest if Gold Circle sold the racecourse without consulting residents. The racecourse, built in 1921, was the only remaining large “green lung” in an area surrounded by petro-chemical and chemical industries.
Calshelf Investments 216, a subsidiary of Cavaleros, had offered to buy the prime plot for a price between R220m and R275m, depending on the time taken to conclude the deal.
But the Cavaleros group’s offer was countered by Capital Property Trust, a property unit trust established in 1984.
According to the company’s website, Capital Property Fund acquired Pangbourne Properties in March 2011 and has since become one of the largest property funds in SA, focusing on industrial and commercial projects.