Cape Town's first skyscraper in 21 years could prompt the building of more iconic, high-rise developments in other inner cities.
Cape Town's tallest building, Portside, is 32 storeys high and 142m high. Image: Skyscraper City
"Investing in a skyscraper of Portside's magnitude is the ultimate symbol of confidence in SA's future and that of Cape Town's CBD in particular,'' said Robert Silke, Partner at Louis Karol Architects who designed Portside in conjunction with DHK.
Silke said Portside signified the first sizable capital injection into a CBD following the more than 40 years of apartheid town planning and subsequent corporate exodus that had left SA's inner cities "ravaged".
He believed that other companies would follow Old Mutual and FirstRand's lead by adding more modern, high-rise buildings to SA's inner-city skylines.
The 26-floor Safmarine Tower, also an Old Mutual development, was the last skyscraper to open its doors in the Mother City on completion in 1993.
Portside is the first office tower exceeding 100m to be built in a South African inner city since corporates fled to decentralised office nodes in the late eighties and early nineties. The 142m high building is not only Cape Town's tallest but also its greenest building.
The 32-floor office tower, which belongs to Old Mutual and FirstRand, was completed last month cost R1.6bn.
Silke's view was echoed in a recent newsletter by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. The council, which has branches across the globe, said SA's emerging prominence as the commercial gateway to Africa would be a key driver of more iconic, tall developments over the next few years.
"The bulk of the country's tall buildings are outdated as they were built in the seventies," the council said. "As such, much of the stock falls short of the accepted current standards for sustainability, health and safety, which impact on its redevelopment potential."
Given the rapid increase in urbanisation in SA, it said, there was the likelihood of "significant urban regeneration" being required over the next decade, involving the recycling and/or redevelopment of SA's tall buildings.
Portside is SA's seventh-tallest building excluding telecommunications towers such as the 8ta and Sentech towers in Johannesburg, according to the council.
The 50-floor Carlton Centre in downtown Johannesburg and Hillbrow's once-swanky Ponte City, both completed in the seventies, still rank as SA's two tallest buildings at 223m and 173m high respectively.
Few really tall buildings in SA
However, SA lags far behind other global skyscraper hot spots such as Dubai, China, Hong Kong and Malaysia, where buildings higher than 450m are not uncommon.
In fact the world's tallest building, the mixed-use Burj Khalifa completed in 2010 in Dubai, has 163 floors and is 828m high.
Faieda Jacobs, Regional Manager for the Old Mutual Property group, said Portside would house three divisions of FirstRand Bank including FNB, RMB and Wesbank.
The group will take up half of the building's 57,000m², while an additional four floors of office space (11,000m²) were under negotiation.
"Portside's asking rentals were R185/m², which is believed to set a new record for Cape Town's inner-city office market," Jacobs said.
Portside is the first skyscraper in SA to be awarded a five-star design rating under the Green Building Council of SA's green star rating system. The building's green credentials include LED lighting and movement sensors that control the air-conditioning and lighting system.
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