DURBAN - THE PLAN TO build the tallest building in the southern hemisphere in Durban has stalled, as negotiations continue between eThekwini Municipality and the Durban Country Club (DCC) over the earmarked site.
Details of the plan first came to light in 2016 when it was presented at a municipal economic development and planning committee meeting.
At the time, The Mercury reported that the proposed location for the tower was the DCC site and the premises of the Natal Mounted Rifles.
The city said at the time that it had received a proposal from the Durban Tower Development Company to build a R6 billion, 88-storey skyscraper near the Moses Mabhida Stadium, which would become the highest building in the southern hemisphere.
At a council meeting last month, city officials raised the issue of the building in a report. It is among several catalytic projects the city has identified with the potential to spur economic growth.
The report noted that the earmarked site is leased by the DCC. For the city to potentially process the unsolicited bid from the Durban Tower Development Company, consent needs to be obtained from the current lessee (DCC) regarding the relinquishing of part of the leased area for the purpose of the proposed Durban Iconic Tower development.
The report said: “A meeting was held with the DCC in June 2021 to reconfirm their interest in their development of a portion of the leased area.
“The DCC committed to providing the formal letter of consent by the end of July 2021. The DCC is currently still not ready to issue the letter to the municipality.”
Approached for comment on the matter, the DCC said in a statement: “Please be advised that the required documentation of consent was submitted to the eThekwini Municipality by our Mr Kamlesh Ranchod in August last year, and again in November.”
Asked for further clarity on the matter, municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the matter was still under discussion.
“Discussions are ongoing between the municipality and the DCC to reach a common understanding on the possibility of releasing a portion of the municipal land leased to the DCC for other social-economic considerations (eg. the Iconic Tower or similar mixeduse developments).
“These discussions have not been completed as yet. The recent letter sent by the DCC in August 2021 stipulated conditions which the municipality is unable to accept, as they are not in line with the legislative process which the municipality needs to follow.
“A response to this effect was sent to the DCC on November 25, 2021.
“A follow-up discussion will take place after the festive season in order to reach finality on the matter by no later than the end of March 2022.
“It is premature to provide exact timelines for the commencement of the development, until statutory processes have been completed.
“Key to this process is the municipality reaching an agreement with the DCC to amend the current leased area for the purposes of exploring other development opportunities,” Mayisela said.
According to the municipal report, the construction of the building was estimated to create 7 600 jobs over four years and 5 000 permanent jobs after its completion.
DA councillor Nicole Graham said it was concerning that many key catalytic projects proposed years ago, seemed not to be progressing.
“I am indifferent to the idea (of the tower), I think there are positives and negatives. The reality is that the city needs a proper catalytic project that can jump-start our economy, we need ground to be broken and people working.
“We have had the same list of catalytic projects year in and year out, that is really the issue for me. I am not tied to the idea of the tower, but I do think we need more infrastructure development,” she said.
IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said the project had turned into a fiasco, because the council officials had not done the necessary groundwork that will ensure that it is kick-started without any problems.
“Unfortunately, such delays lead to delays in job opportunities,” Nkosi lamented.
He said it was important that a city like Durban continuously put up new developments as that demonstrated to investors and community members that it is well run.
“In the previous term, there is nothing that we can point to as a project. In the term before that we had developments like the Moses Mabhida Stadium,” he said.