Green light for La Mercy ‘airport city’

11 May 2011

11 May 2011

A “green” airport city with hotels, office blocks, upmarket retail and entertainment outlets, restaurants and medical facilities will be developed at a cost of R5 billion next to King Shaka International Airport over the next decade

Dube City, touted to become “Africa’s first urban green precinct”, is being spearheaded by Dube TradePort, the provincial government-owned entity that helped secure the R7.8bn airport development for KZN.

Details of the development – which will cover 220 000m2 – were revealed exclusively to The Mercury by Dube TradePort. It comes before the agency’s exhibition of the project at the SA Property Owners Association (Sapoa) International Convention and Exhibition in Cape Town today.

Dube TradePort hopes to lure investors and property developers at the high-profile exhibition to buy into project.

“Dube City is part of our bigger strategic vision to create a world-class ‘aerotropolis’ around King Shaka International Airport over the next 20 years. The vision is to create a 24-hour business, trade, leisure and entertainment hub, which will be linked to the airport, Umhlanga, Durban and Ballito by a future light rail service,” said Dube TradePort CEO Rohan Persad.

“Dube TradePort will include Dube City, in addition to a further 200 000m2 for light industry and property development near the trade zone at the Cargo Terminal and the agri-port.

“It will boast state-of-the-art IT and high-speed fibre optic broadband communications capabilities as part of an overall cyber-port,” he said.

Persad said Dube TradePort would now operate as a “master planner”, developing the land around the airport that it owned with the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa).

“The Dube TradePort Corporation has now been legislated by the KZN government as a provincial government-owned public company to lead the further development of the plans. Acsa own and run the airport, but we are leading the master-planning and development of the support zones around the airport as majority 60 percent shareholder,” he said.

“While we are the master developers, in some cases we will get involved in jointly developing specific sites at Dube TradePort to act as a catalyst to spur its development.

“We are also thinking bigger and beyond the TradePort land. We aim to closely integrate our plans with surrounding development and major land owners and developers – such as Tongaat Hulett Developments – as part of the greater aerotropolis plan,” said Persad.

He said the first phase of Dube City and other developments which formed part of the support and trade zones had environmental approval as part of the airport’s original environmental impact assessment. However, building plans for each property project at Dube TradePort would need local government approval.

“We made a call for proposals for Dube City last year after King Shaka opened and there was a tremendous amount of interest with more than 140 enquiries. But it is still a flat property market and tough economy… In the end we only received about 12 submissions, but not many matched what we are trying to do at Dube City,” said Persad.

“We have strict green building and architectural guidelines. We are confident of luring investors. However, to spur the development we are packaging some of the projects ourselves, which we will then sell to investors. One such project is the first hotel on the site.

“We are looking at an airport hospital that would target ‘health tourism’. It would provide simple procedures, plastic surgery and have a wellness offering to take advantage of this new tourism trend.”