Aug 21, 2008:
Sandton is SA's commercial hub and its infrastructure is taking a beating, but confusion reigns over how serious it is and who should maintain it.
Anthony Orelowitz from Paragon Architects says as things stand currently, we are heading for a crisis with regards to infrastructural demands within the Sandton CBD.
Availability of land is becoming limited, resulting in the optimisation of rights, which has a significant direct impact on traffic and general services. Whilst developers can upgrade general services, which are site-specific, the overall vision for Sandton needs to be driven by local government, supported by developers and ultimately end-users.
"We are currently sitting on a watershed, where resources are going to become scarce in ways which were difficult to grasp three to five years ago. This condition is globally pervasive."
"No single measure taken will have a significant impact on this demand. We will have to change our attitudes and behaviour as a community in order to be able to cope with these new demands. As a collective, we will have to make use of the Gautrain and localised bus routes. Our buildings will have to become more efficient in order to maximise our rights allocations and tenants will, as a matter of corporate governance, force us to comply."
"Greening for green sake may make sense in principal. However, the property industry is very rapidly finding that it is engaging with these issues because, for the first time, it is financially prudent to do so," he says.
"On a micro level developers and end users of property are rapidly shifting their parameters of engagement, adapting to our current situation. On a macro level, we are currently split and, on the one hand, we have bold interventions around issues such as transport, but Eskom is the other end of the scale. The question is not whether we will change, but how this change comes about."
Wolf Cesman, executive director of Madison Property Fund Managers, says if Sandton is the business hub of South Africa, and if it is the major metropolitan area in South Africa, then it should be equated to major metropolitan cities in other countries.
"The infrastructural issues that Sandton faces, such as peak-hour traffic congestion, are the same issues that leading cities such as New York, Paris, London, Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong struggle with. The fact that Sandton is experiencing these challenges puts it on par with other major cities around the world. In this sense, the infrastructural problems which Sandton is experiencing can be seen as a good sign and symptomatic of any leading first-world business hub."
However, he says a world-class city requires world-class management systems and there is much room for improvement in this case.
"For Sandton, as South Africa's financial and business showcase, there are many areas which could, and should, be addressed to ensure the future sustainability and status of this commercial hub. Adequate, well-maintained infrastructure is key for this."
"In many cases in Sandton the infrastructural burden is passed onto private investors for capital investment and maintenance. While many Sandton Central property owners and developers have assumed some of the responsibilities traditionally apportioned to local authorities such as the provision of parking facilities, policing, cleaning and beautifying of streets and the upgrading of roads and traffic signals around their properties, there are areas of improvement which only government – be it local, provincial or national – can provide," he says.
"There is no denying that transport access to the area is poor, with kilometre tailbacks on the highways serving Sandton a regular occurrence. Peak traffic periods now extend up to four hours every morning and evening. An upgrade to these highways is long overdue, even with the future introduction of the Gautrain and extensively improved bus routes. Planning (highways) and maintenance (roads) go hand-in-glove and both are sorely needed."
"Recent cases of raw sewerage flowing on the streets represent another example of infrastructural inadequacy, which should fall on the shoulders of local authorities."
Cara Reilly from the Sandton Central Management District says Sandton Central is regularly touted as an infrastructural nightmare.
"While this criticism may at times be justified, people forget that this is a city in change. While the district is already Africa's commercial hub, the corporate property market is extremely active, with a myriad of developments currently in the ground and set to come on stream over time."
"But, just like any new city, we do have our problems, problems that have been exacerbated by the exponential rate of commercial development and the unfortunate tendency to plan and develop simultaneously - and the reality of implementing both at the same time," she says.