The greater 2400ha Waterfall mega development in Gauteng and the urban core of Waterfall City, anchored by the Mall of Africa, is one of the fastest growing new property development nodes in South Africa, and arguably in Africa.
Since being listed on the JSE in 2013, Attacq Limited has been driving and master-planning the Waterfall City development, which straddles the N1 between Joburg and Pretoria.
Attacq came out of the Atterbury Property stable, after Atterbury secured a coup with landowners the Mia Family in 2008 to develop the commercial core of Waterfall, together with the super-regional mall and warehousing/logistics precinct.
Following the development of Mall of Africa, which was the largest shopping centre to be built in a single phase in South Africa and opened in 2016, Waterfall City has seen a surge in mixed-use development.
Major projects include the 26-storey iconic PwC head office tower, Deloitte’s Africa head office building, two hotels by the City Lodge group, and the Ellipse high-rise upmarket residential development more recently. In addition, there is all the warehousing and logistics park developments as part of the neighbouring Waterfall Logistics Hub, also being driven by Attacq.
In this episode of The Property Pod, we speak with Attacq’s chief development officer Giles Pendleton, who has been in the position for about four years and has played a key role in several of the newer developments and mixed-use property projects at Waterfall City.
Pendleton gives the latest insight on what’s coming out of the ground and some of Attacq’s future plans for Waterfall City. This interview follows Attacq last week hosting a tour at Waterfall City and its neighbouring Waterfall Logistics Hub for property analysts and media.
Highlights of his interview appear below. You can also listen to the full podcast above or download it from iono, Spotify or Apple Podcasts.
“I’m coming up to four years as the chief development officer of Attacq. Prior to that I came in from Dubai, where I spent 12 years primarily focusing on smart and sustainable developments and precincts; and prior to that extensive time in Australasia and in Eastern Europe. So, a roundabout way to come home.”
“[I was] originally from Durban, where I entered the property sector in the late nineties in construction, and sort of worked my way through and up the tree. But I’m very happy to be here…”
“The background and what I bring to the table for Attacq is that, after all those years in Dubai I was really thinking big – and I think that’s the thing that sets Waterfall apart.”
“It’s big. So big, smart and sustainable, putting all of those together is what I think is the fundamental DNA of Waterfall and its success.”
Since joining Attacq, what have you been involved in driving at Waterfall City?
“Waterfall sort of predates Attacq to a degree. It’s 26 years in the making, the last 12 where construction has actually occurred in Waterfall. Three major master developers, being Attacq and its predecessors Century Property Developments and Balwin Properties. Those three each have settled and focused on what they do well.”
“My last four years have involved about 250 000m2 of either completed or in-construction or about-to-start construction development.
“Those are developments that are approved. I funnily enough did the calculation… 30 separate buildings have happened in the last four years under Attacq and my watch.”
“So I think a nice, healthy mix of residential, commercial, hospitality and industrial. We haven’t done any retail in that time, but those different sectors are each market-driven, are all tenant-driven; less and less speculative development is happening at Waterfall.”
“I think when Waterfall first started, apart from the mall there were a number of speculative offices and industrial developments done, and that was really to get the ball rolling. I think it’s been proved now that we don’t need to do any more spec of those buildings.”
“It’s almost organic growth now, and I think that’s coming on the back of a muted economy, sort of a quasi-recession. We’ve had a civil unrest [in parts of SA]. We’ve had Covid; we haven’t really got into second or third gear as an economy yet.”
“Waterfall continues to be very successful in attracting tenants, and just because the macro picture of the country isn’t where it could be, I don’t think that stops the corporate movement and migration, the corporates from our understanding of their businesses.”
Corporates consolidating offices
“There’s still a consolidation under way. Johannesburg and Pretoria have now essentially become one city. So why have two offices if you could have one right slap-bang in the middle?”
“That consolidation still continues to occur and classic examples of that are PwC and Deloitte.
“But I think more recently there’s been a flight to quality, a flight to efficiency, a flight to sustainability and a flight to safety. So I think Waterfall and what Attacq’s doing in its master development ticks each one of those boxes.”
“That’s everything from running a private security grid within Waterfall, so we see everything from number-plate recognition, facial recognition. We’re a very well-run precinct that deals with the flight to safety all the way through to flight to efficiency and sustainability, where we’re doing our first net-zero office building at the moment for a corporate.”
What is Attacq involved in as part of the greater Waterfall mega development node?
“Attacq’s focus is essentially split in two halves separated by the N1. On the western side of the N1 we have our core CBD, our central business district, anchored with the Mall of Africa. Then in concentric rings around that in a master-planned environment – walkable precincts … So that’s anything from a 20 000m2 to a 70 000m2 block of bulk land. And that is driving that whole mixed-use environment.”
“So you will notice the cranes are up now, we’ve handed over our first 200 residential apartments, [and] people are living now vertically in Waterfall. We finished a hotel last year, which is the new generation City Lodge, being the Courtyard [Hotel] four-star, and continue to roll out more and more offices around the CBD.”
“Then on the eastern side is our industrial holding, primarily logistics and distribution campuses, so less manufacturing. We don’t have any dirty industries at the moment on that side, and I don’t think we ever will.”
“This is more about large, clean, sustainable and safe warehousing communities, driven by the logistics of a city [where], if you look at Johannesburg and Pretoria and the Greater Gauteng metro, you’re looking at between 12 and 14 million people. So it’s driving businesses that need to be right in the heart of that large base of customers.”
“We’ve built over 600 000m2 in Waterfall across all the corporates and campuses. That’s a large rollout over 12 years.”
“You can work out the numbers on that. That includes the industrial, and the nice thing about industrial is you do 20 000m2 or 30 000m2 at a time. That’s a sort of a normal warehouse. A 30 000m2 office is a big office. The two biggest we have at the moment are PwC and Deloitte, at 48 000m2 and 42 000m2.”
“One of the nice things about Waterfall that we’ve found is that we have a very hard high percentage of South African and African head offices of multinational and global companies – Isuzu, Honda, Novartis, PwC, Accenture, and so on.”
What is the overall scale of the greater Waterfall development?
“2 400ha. It’s so big that we actually refer to it as ‘the farm’, because before Attacq and Balwin and Century, it was the Mia family farm …”
“The history of it was, and large parts of it still are, actually a farm, and are zoned farmland and have livestock on it. So we still a quasi-farm, where the older rural fringe of the cities of Joburg and Pretoria merge. So still a lot of development.”
“One of the questions people ask is: ‘What has been spent on Waterfall to date?’ If one just has to look at the valuation roll for the City of Joburg, that’s sitting somewhere north of R35 billion.”
“That’s happened over 12 years and, of the last 12 years, 70% has happened in the last six years and 30% in the first six years. So that’s really shown how Waterfall has ramped up exponentially lately rather than right at the beginning of its life.”
“Attacq is still doing quite a lot of inner-city residential high-rise … We’ve spoken about Ellipse, around phase two, should I say, the third tower at the moment – that’s the tall 18-story tower that’s going up. We’re on level two at the moment, and Ellipse has 620 units.”
“Recently in July we launched The Mix, our entry-level product into Waterfall. That’s been extremely successful with our partner D2E [Properties] and it has passed over R260 million in sales in the last few months.”
“Whether you’re a corporate, a resident or an owner, the fact that it’s a walkable precinct, it’s safe and secure, which is why a lot of people are making that move or that investment to Waterfall.”
“Lots done but still a long way to go … I think 20 years from now we will still be building on Waterfall because it’s that big.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa has often touted the need for South Africa to build a new post-apartheid city. But you don’t often hear the president mentioning Waterfall City. What would you say to the president regarding Waterfall City?
“I think what I would say to our president is, please come and see what we’ve done; let us help and guide. We’ve paid school fees, we’ve done the hard yards. We know where and how these cities work. We know where the bottlenecks are.
“We know what it takes to actually get a city of this scale completed.”
“At 2 400ha we will eventually have a population of about 150 000 permanent residents in Waterfall. Now that’s bigger than a lot of towns in this country.”
“We’ve got a 26-storey building. We are moving towards an integrated transport platform, which will include a Gautrain station. All these things take a long time and, as I said, we’ve been at it for 12 years.”
“Certain roads are only now being built around Waterfall, provincial roads that were planned 20 years ago. We’ve been talking about them for the last 12 years. So, Mr President, it’s easy to talk about creating these things; getting them into action is actually where the hard yards start.”
“We’ve paid so much in school fees and we’ve got so many lessons learnt and so much in-house skills – not just us, but all the people who’ve made Waterfall successful – that we will be more than willing … to share that knowledge and show what can be done when, as a country, we put our mind to something for the long-term benefit of all the residents.”
“I think the thing about Waterfall is that we have, from the Equestrian Estate – very expensive houses – right the way through to entry-level products at Waterfall junction.
“We have eight schools across the board here. We have everything from mosques to hospitals to cemeteries. We’re a fully functioning standalone city.”
“Even if you took Joburg and Pretoria alone, Waterfall would continue to prosper. If the president was listening to this podcast, it would be amazing. But any of his advisors, anybody, we’ll always welcome visitors.”
“Come and see what we do. Let us show people. If we can learn those lessons and export them elsewhere it would be for the benefit of all South Africans, not just those in and around Waterfall.”