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Clairwood: Rising out of ‘alien planet’

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Once home to a historic race course, a R3.5bn project will turn the area into a logistics park, operational by the end of 2020.

Construction on the R3.5 billion Clairwood Logistics Park began last year and has reached the point where the flattened terrain is covered in crushed rock, almost akin to the surface of an alien planet in its appearance.

Yet, the site of the historic racecourse will be repurposed to create much needed employment and business opportunities in the economically depressed South Durban Basin. This follows the green light given to the project by former KwaZulu-Natal economic development, tourism and environmental affairs MEC Michael Mabuyakhulu last January – but not before the local community had protested substantially about potential further congestion and pollution near their homes.

The provincial government department found the amended environmental impact assessment report complied with stringent regulations and adequately addressed concerns raised by residents living in the South Durban Basin and surrounds during an appeal process.

The Capital Property Fund, subsequently incorporated into the JSE-listed Fortress Income Fund in a move that raised its market capitalisation to marginally over R55bn, acquired the land from racing company Gold Circle in 2012 for R430m. The stated intention is to convert the 91-year-old racing institution into a logistics park centred on warehousing and distribution.

At the time Capital Property Fund director Andrew Teixeira said the initiative was underpinned by the government’s proposal for converting the old Durban International Airport into a dug-out port. The main attraction for acquiring the land was its proximity to the harbour and surrounding industrial area.

The company aims to develop about 350 000m² of warehousing with the balance of the land becoming paved yards to service the facilities. Clairwood Logistics Park will also include a fully rehabilitated 8ha wetland for indigenous fauna and flora.

The development cost includes R110m to be spent upgrading the surrounding roads and infrastructure, and there are extensive areas where signs reflect deep excavation projects are under way.

The basin is a national economic hub consisting of an industrial area interspersed with residential population. It isthe last piece of flat land available for development in south Durban, and an efficient logistics and distribution facility near the port is expected to minimise road traffic to congested areas to the north of the city and also inland.

Imperial Retail Logistics is one of the large companies operating from Jacobs. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

A recent report released by auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (entitled Transportation & Logistics 2030: Vol 3 emerging markets – new hubs, new spokes, new industry leaders?) reflected that as emerging markets continue increasing, new hubs and spokes will develop in the global logistics networks.

The report predicts South Africa will become the starting point of a new transport corridor to Asia with significant investments in transport infrastructure, and says the African logistics industry needed to develop new transport routes and expand existing ones.

“African logistics service providers who actively operate on the new transport corridor Africa-Asia will be able to profit from tremendous growth, leading to a competitive marketplace for logistics in the region,” the report states, backing up indications for the demand for logistics and distribution parks in South Africa broadly and Durban specifically.

The international firm has released five reports to date in its transportation and logistics series.

Rasmussen Properties industrial property broker Michael Moss says with construction well under way, the city is about to witness the birth of a much-needed modern logistics park.

Earlier this year Fortress launched the Westlake View Logistics Park in Modderfontein and Moss says if that development is any yardstick, “Durban’s industrial property market is in for a treat.”

Proposed is A-grade warehousing with 12 tons/m² floor loading capacity; 13.5m height to the eaves and columns spaced at 32mx32m intervals to allow for more efficient racking to a greater height.

“While more expensive to build and therefore, demanding a higher rental, the operational efficiency and increased volume allows logistics operators to make more of their footprint,” he says, adding that the security measures and operational features like large yards, truck lay-bys and container stacking areas are seldom found on other properties in the surrounding Congella, Rossburgh, Jacobs, Mobeni and Prospecton.

Durban Investment Promotion Agency chief executive Russell Curtis says the project aims to support the logistics, commercial and surrounding light industrial developments in the broader South Durban Basin. It will also usher in more of the desired zoning as indicated in the city’s back-of-port local area plan by providing localised and regional logistics solutions.

Johannesburg-based 5th Avenue Properties already has a proposed 22 730m² warehouse in the logistics park on its books. The group says warehouses can be tailor-made to tenants’ specific requirements with the monthly rentals still to be determined.

“December 2020 may seem a long way from completion, but if one is to capitalise on the opportunity Clairwood Logistics
Park is to provide, now is the time to engage with the development and secure a facility purpose-built to suit your needs,” Moss says.

Independent on Saturday Property


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