Launch of R1.7bn Bay centre

Cindy Preller

A SPACESHIP that knits into the surroundings and an economic injection unlocking the city’s western suburbs. This is how some role players described the R1.7-billion Baywest Mall during the Port Elizabeth shopping centre’s official launch on-site just off the N2 yesterday.

Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism MEC Mcebisi Jonas, who was a keynote speaker at the launch, said the mall was an important development for the region not only in terms of creating jobs but also in building critical infrastructure to relieve congestion in the city. The mall is set to open in March 2015.

“The Eastern Cape metros are still very small and a staggering move backwards over the past 10 years has been experienced in terms of deindustrialisation.

“With the increase in manufacturing and industrialisation at the industrial development zones, especially at Coega, combined with a more dynamic private sector, we can grow the metros once again,” Jonas said.

When asked if there would be enough electricity to power all the new developments in the city, Jonas said the Eastern Cape was becoming an energy supply hub in terms of nuclear power, shale gas as well as renewable energy.

“Whether we like it environmentally or not, electricity generation will have huge implications for the region. There may be some hiccups but we will have enough electricity in the long run to supply all the developments,” Jonas said.

The roof of the 250-outlet mall will be the size of eight football fields but will “knit into the surrounds” with the mall’s contemporary look designed to have the least visual impact. Despite the sheer size of the two- level shopping centre it has been designed to take only 10 minutes to walk through, which dhk architects chairman Derick Henstra describes as a circular racetrack.

“It is not a themed building but can rather be described as an urban node that will disappear into the surrounding greenery. You will never be further away than 150m from your nearest exit. Goods will be transported via an underground tunnel from below for all the retailers, other than the eight anchor tenants, situated in the four claws on the sides of the shopping centre,” Henstra explained.

A food court will be complemented by the “Fun Factory” where a 3D-cinema, bowling alley, games arcade and much- anticipated ice-skating rink will be situated.

Henstra said it had taken a year to complete the design of the centre, which was only finalised completely in the last six months. The Cape Town-based architectural firm is in the process of opening an office in Port Elizabeth.

Baywest managing director Gavin Blows said the mall was set to become “the pulse of the Bay”, with the N2 interchange and surrounding roads network, being established in conjunction with Sanral, becoming the main arteries and veins of this “pulse”.

An Engen One-Stop petrol station is also planned off the N2, close to the entrance to the mall. Co-developer Billion Group’s executive chairman Sisa Ngebulana said the road infrastructure would “unlock growth in the city” with the western suburbs connecting to the N2.

“The economic impact to the city will be vast. Our research shows PE is under-supplied in terms of shopping centres. Anchor tenants include Checkers Hyper, Pick n Pay, Edgars, Woolworths as well as various lower- and top-end retailers,” Ngebulana said.

Abacus Asset Management chairman Jaco Odendaal, the other developer of the mall, said the mall was based on the original vision of expansion for the city.

“The mall is not only for PE but for the entire region,” Odendaal said.

Urban Concepts director Gerhard van der Merwe said other developments planned for around the mall, which would be developed over the next 20 years, would include motor show rooms, a gym, fast food outlets, a hotel, as well as various residential developments and office parks.

More than 300 representatives from the Mandela Bay Development Agency, Nafcoc, Business Women’s Association, Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, municipality and local businesses also attended the launch.

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