Main image: A full view of the Sandton Gate Precinct

One of the companies with over 35 000m² of offices currently under development and 4 planned retail properties, Abland is leading the charge with a number of developments in South Africa.

We spoke to Grant Silverman, the marketing and leasing director of Abland, to get his thoughts on retail development in South Africa.

“Abland Property Development is still innovating after 30 years.

Are you seeing a specific design philosophy and criteria that tenants want?

“Convenience is important, and the design preference remains your traditional popular U- or L-shaped development. We want to make the designs as appealing as possible, no matter in which area it is. People want to visit a convenience shopping centre, that are presented well, so we cannot skimp on design – this includes areas such as walk ways and bathrooms. The shopper experience is important to us. People want to feel good when they shop.”

Has the design of centres shifted towards accessibility?

“Yes, people prefer single-storey strip centres. They prefer the convenience and to be able to drive directly up to the shop. People are very time-conscious, and for day-to-day shopping, they want to be in and out as quickly as possible.

In terms of our peri-urban malls, we also take taxi rides into account. How many rides would it take the customer to get to the mall? What facilities are available there?”

Is there a change in material usage from, say, a decade ago?

“The change has been more in the field of aesthetics and what requires less maintenance with a long life span.

Have you seen a change in office usage post-Covid-19? Is there an increase in people returning to offices?

“Definitely. Offices have really started returning back to normality. Naturally there is an element much more focussed on is home/hybrid, but people are going back to offices. Staff miss the collaborative space and want to get out of the house, so it is continuously increasing.”

Let’s talk about walkable cities and, specifically, Sandton.

“There is an increasing trend of walkable and smart cities as well as mixed-use precincts, usable for retail and residential. It would be ideal if more older offices are turned into residential, where you will live in the city, but with all the benefits of suburban life. Sandton is not as cosmopolitan as it could be and not all at that pedestrian friendly. It remains the business hub of Africa and has its appeal. Thus, a precinct like Sandton Gate incorporates the green space that is very important for us as developers.

How important is the urban scaping for a development?

“It is ideal to have a walk-in greenspace and people love the vegetation and benches, where they can just escape for a bit. People don’t want to go back to normal offices. Tenants want an environment where they have a new modern office, where there are restaurants and gyms and green spaces. The space is very important to tenants in terms of relaxation and breakaway areas, as well as visually appealing as they want to attract and retain top talent.”

Gin Eatery Sandton at Sandton Gate Precinct

What is the importance of building Green Star rated buildings?

“Sustainability is very important, as people are very cognisant of the environment. The efficiency of the building is also essential.

The focus remains on how much it costs for the tenant to be in that building. Tenants want to draw as little energy as possible. Focus on the environment is important, but tenants want to know how they are directly affected. Technology is constantly improving and so is solar-increased usage, but buildings do not always have the available roof space for PV and solar”

Sandton Gate: a case for green precincts

The Green Building Council of South Africa develops South Africa’s Green Star rating, providing an objective measurement on buildings in South Africa and Africa.

Sandton Gate is a world-class, mixed-use precinct that allows city lifestyle with the benefits of suburban life, while on the doorstep of South Africa’s financial central business district (CBD). It offers premium office space, flexi suites (semi-serviced office space), various popular amenities and a landscaped piazza. Sandton Gate is a great example of a green precinct and has a five-star green rating – maximising daylight hours, reducing electricity consumption, fitted with energy-efficient light fittings, back-up water and power, low-energy water heating etc.

How are you finding the property industry right now?

“The property industry has its challenges, but it has picked up. The economy is tough, but offices are under construction as people are returning to offices. Retailers prefer being close to convenience strip malls and there is most definitely a demand for retail. Retailers are hungry for sites and there is still a gap in that market the placement is crucial, especially for people struggling with transport.”

How do you decide on placements of urban developments?

“There must be a gap in the market, preferably within walking distance, and developers must focus on where there is a demand to assist the community. The area around the development will slowly but surely grow as people get employment, and those spreads. The most important is to see where there is an opportunity for a shopping centre to be able to assist the community.

“Retail is brought to where it is needed, such as Katlehong Crossing, which will have all the necessary retailers, job creation and business opportunities needed for this community.

“The centre will measure 8 000m² GLA and is due to open in November this year. It will comprise of a wide tenant mix and is situated on the corner of Kaunda Street and Venus Drive in Katlehong on the East Rand.

Aren’t we overserviced with malls?

“There are many centres in the well-established urban areas, but for developers, there are fantastic opportunities in precincts with the office and work environment together. There remain opportunities in outlying areas to bring retail closer to people’s homes.”

The Abland team are extremely excited about the future, we have fantastic opportunities, are always looking for new developments, and partners. Being proudly South African we are committed and investing in this beautiful country.

Abland surely is breaking new ground, like their slogan says. Their comprehensive portfolio – from office, retail, industrial, residential, and other projects – makes them popular, valued, and trusted property developers in South Africa.

For more information, contact Abland:
Tel: +27 11 510 9999

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