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Commercial property in KZN: Harry Gwala Road

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Inclusive political structures have drawn buyers to commercial land close to the Durban harbour

In his comprehensive paper South Africa 2003-04: Apartheid as Infrastructure, American academic Paul Edwards highlights the extent to which the National Party government used infrastructural development to separate communities.

Parastatal corporations constructed highways, railway lines, water supplies, electric power grids and communication systems within easy access to and principally for white neighbourhoods.

The lower quality development in black townships focused on housing, schools and health services and where infrastructure was created, its focus was on facilitating the movement of black labour into and out of white areas.

Harry Gwala Road is the physical embodiment of how this approach to separate infrastructural development kept apart communities literally living as neighbours, and the way inclusive political structure is resolving these issues. Until the mid-1990s, the 5km road now known as Harry Gwala Road existed in two pieces.

The top end that served as the addresses for Life Healthcare Westville Hospital, The Pavilion Shopping Centre and several office park developments was Spine Road, and served the needs of the affluent white neighbourhoods in Westville. The lower end, edging into Chesterville and Cato Manor and leading up to the University of Natal Durban campus (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal Durban campus), was Booth Road.

While the two ends were less than 1km apart, the two neighbourhoods operated as mutually exclusive environments. The distance between the hospital and campus approached 15km and required travelling down the N3 national freeway and across Berea traffic. Today, it is a direct 7km trip on a single road.

The official road name honours the ANC and SACP firebrand Themba Harry Gwala, a man not always remembered with reverence by other political figures for his uncompromising stance against the Inkatha Freedom Party during the violence that dominated the province in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Yet, businesses on both ends of the spectrum typically list their addresses in line with the old names, meaning Spine Road, Booth Road and Harry Gwala Road are interchangeable – in one sense a metaphor for South Africa’s evolution.

This business complex, complete with a welding outlet, shisanyama cafe and car wash facility in the Chesterville section of Booth Road, reflects how smaller businesses can play a role in the economy. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

The link road between Spine and Booth roads was constructed as a single carriageway in both directions, but the foresight that this area has the potential for economic growth and development is apparent in the wide shoulder sufficient to transform the road into a dual carriageway in both directions. In the past decade, a host of companies has demonstrated confidence through multi-billion-rand infrastructure and building investments – and the pace is gaining momentum.

Three years ago commercial property developers Newlyn Group broke construction records when it built the 12 500m² Dunlop Durban technical evaluation centre within five months of concluding the contract with client Sumitomo Rubber South Africa. The centre occupies land at the traffic lights where Spine Road becomes Booth Road.

A second warehouse has now been completed on the same site and the potential for new neighbours is apparent as the eThekwini Municipality has developed the adjacent property near the existing petrol station as a small business park.

Directly opposite the Dunlop warehouse is the Ayoba Cold Store facility established in 2011 as among the pioneers recognising the potential for Harry Gwala Road. Further along the road are smaller business parks accommodating entrepreneurial ventures such as car washes, sishanyama outlets and welding companies.

Travelling closer to the UKZN Durban campus, the eThekwini Municipality’s Umkhumbane Entrepreneurial Support Centre provides establishing businesses with premises for a three-year period before sending the business owner into the larger world. Local commercial property brokers agree the area has substantial growth potential, reflecting that the available land has been acquired and limited opportunities for renting commercial space.

Among its advantages is the proximity to the N3 national freeway to the country’s economic heartland and being near the Durban harbour as the largest container terminal in Africa. It has also offered value to buyers with commercial land in Jacobs demanding R25/m² and Harry Gwala selling around R15/m² to early birds who saw the burgeoning potential.


Proximity to transport infrastructure is a bonus

Sumitomo Rubber South Africa (SRSA)

Phase one of Sumitomo Rubber South Africa’s Dunlop tyre facility was completed in record time. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

A subsidiary of the Japan-based Sumitomo Rubber Industries (SRI), SRSA has a longstanding relationship with the Dunlop tyre brand both in terms of manufacturing and distribution. In 2013 SRI acquired Apollo Tyres South Africa as part of its strategic global development plans and renamed the company SRSA.

Ayoba Cold Storage

Established in 2011, Ayoba Cold Storage has evolved into a leading force in the bulk freezer storage industry. The facility, where the freezer store operates at -25°C, functions around the clock five days a week, and chose its location in Harry Gwala Road on the strength of its proximity to transport infrastructure. 

Nomadik Stretch Tents and Canopies

The globally recognised stretch tent manufacturer has more than 15 years’ experience as a supplier and supporter to the events industry. A proudly South African company with its headquarters in Gauteng, the group has ancillary distribution offices in the Netherlands, UK and Spain to supply clients with ready-made stretch tents and accessories.

Stallion Transport

Stallion Trucking is among the businesses established in the Booth Road area, with its premises
situated in Bambanani Business and Storage Park. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Founded in 1986, Stallion Transport undertakes the transportation of literally any type of cargo from machinery to chemicals, plastic, steel, containers and abnormal cargoes. The company boasts a large fleet across South Africa to promise its clients flexibility
and reliability.

Advantages offered by the area

The intention to widen Booth Road into a dual carriageway in both directions was obviously on the cards when the road was originally built. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Proximity to the harbour

The creation of Harry Gwala Road
paved the way for greenfield commercial and industrial development close to the Durban harbour. Industrial areas such as Jacobs and Mobeni, the original sites that had their eyes on the harbour, have long been fully accommodated.

Access to the N2/N3

The area is fewer than two minutes’ travelling time to the N3 national freeway to Gauteng and five minutes from the N2 freeway
that runs along the coast north to the King Shaka International Airport and south towards Umbogentwini and Amanzimtoti, where Toyota is developing a motor vehicle supply parts logistics park.

Labour

The poorer residents living in Chesterville and Cato Manor suffer from a high unemployment rate, meaning businesses can draw from a pool of labour literally located on their doorstep. Efforts are underway to improve informal housing in the area.

Land available for development

The Life Westville Hospital was constructed in the 1980s on a former landfill site. The property has been expanded several times. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

While not expansive, Harry Gwala Road does have some land available for development. Construction and excavation trucks operating along the route demonstrate the growing interest along this strip of real estate.

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