Fri Oct 21 16:49:11 SAST 2016

Jozi landmark up for grabs - again

By unknown | Jul 10, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Isaac Moledi

Isaac Moledi

Johannesburg's best-known landmark, the Carlton Centre, and the city's barometer of confidence in the central business district (CBD), will soon be on sale once again.

Transport utility Transnet, which bought the building at a bargain eight years ago, has already made its intention clear to sell the Carlton as part of the group's overall strategy to off-load all its non-core assets.

The Carlton will be on sale for about R500million, a big jump from the R33million that Transnet paid Anglo American Properties when they bought Africa's tallest building in 1999.

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, the group's iconic investment in Cape Town, has already been sold.

The 50-storey building had been lying empty for two years before the transport group bought it.

Property experts believe that it was an example of "fortitude and sheer bloody guts" for Transnet to buy the entire complex, including the Carlton Hotel.

However, by putting its money in the project, they say, the group instilled faith in the city again by bringing prospective investors back into the CBD.

The centre forms a major part of Transnet's property division, Propnet.

Transnet has also sold its housing loan book worth R1,4billion - part of the assets to be off-loaded - to FirstRand Limited.

According to the group's chief executive Maria Ramos, the Transnet housing portfolio is split into two divisions: the loan book, which conducts lending activities, and the property portfolio division, which manages Transnet housing and lodges portfolio.

The Transnet housing property portfolio division and the respective staff who work within this division are currently excluded from the scope of FirstRand's transaction.

Rajan Desraj, chief executive of Propnet, said the group was still discussing and consulting with various stakeholders on a strategy to ditch its non-core assets.

The Department of Public Enterprises, a major stakeholder in state properties, was also being briefed about the process, Desraj said.

Desraj said though the nitty-gritty involved in selling the property was yet to be finalised, an announcement to that effect has been made in principle.

Built in 1973 by a consortium of local and US-based developers, the Carlton is part of a complex that includes the Carlton Hotel, a large shopping area of several levels and the inner city's biggest car park.

Though the Carlton Hotel is still to become fully functional, many remember its fine restaurants, its world-class conference facilities, the pool deck and the banquet hall that could hold 500 guests.

Property experts say with the 2010 World Cup on the way, this magnificent hotel might still reach its full potential. With 70000 square metres of office space and 50000 metres of retail space, linked to a 2500 bay parking facility, property experts agree that the Carlton can truly be called the Centre of Africa.

More than 2500 people work in the complex and each day about 25000 people visit the centre.

Transnet moved from their Parktown and Braamfontein offices in 1999 to occupy the Carlton. Statistics for the year 2006 showed that the company occupied 60percent of the office space.

Other tenants include the Department of Justice, attorneys, doctors, engineers, insurance, travel and property consultants and a computer school.

Business giants such as Pick 'n Pay, the South African Revenue Service and scores of other enterprises have moved in to take occupancy, resulting in the complex becoming a bustling shopping precinct.

Those who moved in from Sandton City and other parts of the country said they wanted to be part of the revival of downtown Johannesburg.

Transnet says it has worked hard to get people into the Carlton Centre and the CBD. To attract some of the best businesses, the group had to instal state-of-the-art security.

This gradually halted the exodus of businesses from the Carlton in general and the CBD in particular.

Mining houses such as Anglo American, some of the country's major financial institutions as well as other businesses still have their headquarters in the CBD. This shows business' confidence in the City of Gold.

There are security guards at every entrance to the Carlton, and each lift foyer has surveillance cameras.

It does not stop there. Plans have already been implemented to establish safety corridors into and out of the city centre.

Government and business initiatives will ensure the route off the M2 on to Rissik Street, through Marshall Street and into the Carlton Centre parking garage will have security guards deployed at strategic points.

After rescuing the complex which had stood neglected for almost two years, the country's biggest state-owned transport company intends putting the centre back on sale.

Fears abound as to what will happen to the complex that has brought so much life and business confidence back into the city centre.

But national property letting agent, Trafalgar, says it is not worried because the renewal of the city centre is strong and progressing well.

"The Carlton Centre is an icon and has a history associated with it. It is important that whoever is going to buy the Carlton continues to maintain its iconic status," says Andrew Schaefer, Trafalgar chief executive.

Schaefer is hopeful that the Carlton would still be properly maintained because of the city's potential and other major developments currently taking place.

Business Against Crime (BAC) says it hopes that the various projects that have been launched to fight crime in the CBD will not be affected.

These include the control-room housing surveillance cameras and other security equipment, situated in the Carlton Centre complex.

This project, says BAC spokesperson Labane Maluleka, had brought crime in the CBD down by 80percent.

Other experts believe that with the Carlton Centre now back on sale, this might be an opportunity for some new big business thinkers to go back to the drawing board and think of ways of making the complex the Centre of Africa once more.

The message should be very clear: that Joburg's new-look inner city will never go back to its gloomy days.

The Carlton must once more project itself as a major tourist area. Groups such as students, youths and others who visit the complex for its variety of activities including relaxing at the food courts and other attractions, must be kept in mind by whoever buys the Carlton from Transnet. This will send a strong message that the city is back on track.


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