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David Green – CEO, V&A Waterfront

Daily traffic through the 300-acre development varies from 60 000 – 140 000 visitors.

HILTON TARRANT: Well, the most recent expansion of Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront opening at the end of last month. David Green is chief executive of the V&A Waterfront. David, a nine month R140m upgrade to the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre, perhaps what most visitors to the Waterfront indeed think of as the Waterfront, what’s changed? What have you added?

DAVID GREEN: I think the main thing that we’ve changed is that we’ve added a new 6500sqm Pick n Pay store, so this will be the flagship store for the Western Cape and the main feature with it is that it has parking on the same level as the store and this allows people to use trolleys and it’s just much more convenient. In addition to that what we did was we’ve extended the car parking and we’ve linked two car parks and just made it a lot more convenient so that people particularly coming from the Atlantic seaboard side can actually enter directly off Granger Bay Boulevard and then pass under a very short tunnel and then they’re straight outside the storefront. In addition to that we have added a further 1400sqm trading space on the upper level connecting our two corridors and there we’ve extended Edgars and we’re adding four more new stores. So quite a big addition in total, some almost 8000sqm on to the existing 80 000sqm.

HILTON TARRANT: Perhaps most impressive the fact that there was very little disruption over that construction period, in fact retail sales up.

DAVID GREEN: Yes, I think we were particularly pleased with that, I think what we tried to do was we tried to communicate as widely as possible and it was a positive message and essentially we just tried to keep on top of things where if anything  went wrong we just tried to fix it very quickly. So we’re very pleased that the footfall and the sales have gone up, in the last quarter we achieved a 19.5% year on year increase in sales and footfall was up 15%.

HILTON TARRANT: David, it really is dramatic the change since Growthpoint and the PIC bought that property from Dubai World, just how much has been invested since then?

DAVID GREEN: The investment since they’ve acquired is probably now in total approaching R1bn. So between the construction of a new office complex, 18 000 office complex, the retail, improving the infrastructure around the Waterfront we’re getting close to R1bn. I think there are plans going forward for the next at least five years of somewhere in the region of R500m to R1bn spend. So yeah, it’s a big long-term investment from the new shareholders.

HILTON TARRANT: Lots of visitors specifically to the retail precinct, how long do the average visitors spend at the V&A, how much do they spend and how many visitors do you see in a day, particularly in a period like the festive season, which is rapidly approaching?

DAVID GREEN: People tend to spend quite a bit longer at the Waterfront because I think, as you mentioned earlier, the Waterfront is more than a shopping centre, there is a wide range of different activities, there are restaurants, there are outside areas, so we tend to find that people are spending around an average of three and a half hours, which is considerably higher than simply to a shopping centre. In terms of numbers on an average day we might have something like 60 000 people through but we’ve handled up to 180 000 and now that we’re coming into season we are currently handling in excess of 100 000 people and we’ll probably peak at about 130 000,
140 000 in a day.

HILTON TARRANT: Is there a long waiting list in terms of tenants?

DAVID GREEN: There is a waiting list in terms of tenants, we have zero vacancies within the Victoria Wharf. What we’ve been trying to do is to kind of manage that and we’ve been trying to…in the last year we’ve brought in 20 new stores because we think it’s important to keep a fresh new and different offering. So we’re actually actively managing our turnover, if you like. So we need to have a waiting list because we wanted to offer the consumer the widest variety and keep changing that offer.

HILTON TARRANT: What about the silo developments, David, we’ve obviously got Allan Gray taking up some significant office space there, there’s potential residential rental stock coming onto the market in a couple of years and then obviously that big museum of contemporary African art that’s been announced. It’s a departure, I guess, from the roots of the Waterfront being the Victoria Wharf?

DAVID GREEN: Yes, absolutely. Look, I think most people understand or think of the Waterfront as the shopping centre but actually the Waterfront extends pretty much from the conference centre almost through to the Water Club at Radisson Hotel. So it’s 300 acres. 123 hectares, within that we’ve probably got about another 50% to develop out, we’re concentrating currently on connecting the Waterfront more with the city. So that’s why we’re working on this silo precinct. The museum, as you said, is a very exciting and very ambitious commitment from the new shareholders to bring a cultural aspect, which we haven’t had a great deal of within the Waterfront and the plans that we’ve announced are to spend approximately R500m converting the silo building into this museum, which will have a space of approximately 100 000sqf or 10 000sqm and that will make it one of the most significant museums of contemporary art in the world and it will be the biggest museum of contemporary art within Africa since the Cairo Museum some 100 years ago. So that’s a very exciting departure and I think it will add a whole new dimension to the Waterfront. I think that’s what we’re always trying to do is to broaden the interest in the Waterfront, keep offering new things and this idea of having a platform for the finest contemporary art from Africa, to showcase that art, anchored by Jochen Zeitz’s personal collection but we’re hoping that existing or current artists will aspire to display their collections and also other collectors, many of whom are in New York, in Europe, whose collections sit in bank vaults, we’re hoping that they will find it interesting to display their art in this museum.

HILTON TARRANT: And the residential apartments?

DAVID GREEN: Ja, the residential apartments are again a new departure for us, we’re going to be creating almost 300 smaller, accessible residential apartments for rent so that people can live in the Waterfront at accessible rental levels. I think we’ve set the standard in terms of the luxurious residences in the marina but what we’re trying to do now is create more accessible units, clearly they will be smaller but really making them more accessible so that people can have this amazing quality of life where they live within the Waterfront and can almost walk or take public transport into work in the city or in the Waterfront.

HILTON TARRANT: Speaking of public transport, the MyCiTi bus service, has that made a big difference to the precinct?

DAVID GREEN: Ja, the MyCiTi bus is starting to gain some traction, it’s a fantastic service. We’ve got trunk stations, so you can trunk direct from the airport into the Waterfront, which I think is essential, it’s a similar sort of service that you have in Johannesburg going from the airport into Sandton. Two trunk stations and 14 other stops around the Waterfront, so we’re investing quite heavily, we think it’s a great initiative. It’s actually quite remarkable in a very short space of time to go from where we were to where we’re getting to and, as I say, it’s starting to gain traction and it is a good service.

HILTON TARRANT: David, just to close off with, have you been busier than usual this weekend with the two tribute sites to Nelson Mandela in the precinct?

DAVID GREEN: I think it’s been normal levels of activity, I wouldn’t have said we were any busier, I think there’s a bit of a subdued attitude, people are a little bit subdued. I think people have taken the opportunity to use these convenient sites just to reflect and write a few words. There has been a steady flow but I think the city and the province have been well prepared and there are a number of different convenient options for people to sign, so I wouldn’t have said we’ve had particularly any more or any less people through.

HILTON TARRANT: David Green is chief executive of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. 

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