By Shirley le Guern
Durban - A CALL for more public-private sector partnerships and co-operation as well as additional large-scale development projects that would promote the province’s economic recovery was made during the first phase launch of the iconic R1.3 billion Umhlanga Arch development this week.
The long-awaited multi-use project, to which developer and shareholder Devmco and local private equity firm Multiply Group are putting the final touches, was opened to the public for the first time on Tuesday.
MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, visited the commercial space in the development’s trademark glass arch, the open air retail segment known as the Yard, as well as South Africa’s first Hilton Garden Inn, which is expected to open in November.
This four-star hotel is South Africa’s first fully integrated smart hotel. Using a mobile app, guests will not only be able to book into the hotel using their cellphones but also use these as their room keys. Guests’ phones will also operate lifts, control lights, television and air conditioners.
Acknowledging the delays resulting from the Covid-19 lockdown, as well as setbacks that have negatively impacted both the construction and tourism sectors, Dube-Ncube thanked the developers for their contribution and described the development as inspiring.
“What Covid has taught us is that the world is looking for leaders who are agile and inspirational, leaders who are prepared to break out and forge ahead. We’ve missed out on a lot of things by sitting in comfort zones and not moving ahead.
“Covid-19 has taught business and government the value of working together. We have interacted more than ever before and shared the pain. In the past, we were so preoccupied that we talked past each other rather than to each other. Now, we have learnt to listen to each other,” she said.
The MEC said that more iconic designer buildings such as the Arch were needed to attract visitors to the city of Durban. It was also necessary to create unique experiences which would benefit both tourism and the broader economy.
Marc Rosenberg, an executive partner at the Multiply Group, said when the developers had decided to develop this prime site, they realised that it needed to be impactful and represent a broader investment in both the city and the community.
He said that the residential tower was completely sold out and that the 7200m² of prime grade office space was fully tenanted.
Approximately 1500 people were employed during the first three years of construction.
Unfortunately, this shrank to 300 during lockdown but quickly ramped up to 1200 post-Covid.
Rosenberg said that stores in the food court would display the work of local artists. Whereas artists usually received 10% from the sale of their work and 90% went to galleries, he said artists would receive 90% of the proceeds with 10% going to a foundation that would support and help develop local talent. Charles Thompson, a director of Devmco Group, said he hoped that what was the first tall building to be developed on the Ridge would not be the last.
“This has got to be the first of six or seven buildings like this. We can’t have buildings in this city stopping and failing,” he said.
Craig Coombe, the chief executive of Multiply Group, said that the lockdown had been a very difficult time when their development had sometimes been the only provider of revenue to some small businesses and employees.
“We’re aware of the knock-on effect. We need a lot more projects of this kind. Now that the Arch is coming to an end, there is concern about where their next income will be coming from.
“We need to have courage and facilitate further projects such as this.”