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Mount Edgecombe: Mill wheels keep turning

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As one chapter of sugar cane farming ended in 1994, a new one began with investment in the industry.

The history of Mount Edgecombe is intrinsically linked to KwaZulu-Natal’s sugar cane industry and thus the indentured labourers who came from India to work those plantations. 

When Marshall Campbell purchased the Mount Edgecombe sugar cane mill in 1895, Natal Estates Limited as one of South Africa’s largest sugar milling giants emerged. 

As the company grew, so did the number of sugar cane farms feeding the mill until there were 22 estates whose specific purpose was to cultivate and provide a constant supply of cane to the Mount Edgecombe Mill.

The mill’s closure in 1994 ended a chapter in Durban’s history, but it also started another one – the opportunity for Tongaat Hulett, the company that owned the lands producing sugar cane to feed the old mill, to shift into land development and create new investment. 

Spar’s cold storage depot. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Tongaat Hulett Developments managing director Mike Deighton says since the 1990s the company and its partners have planned and developed about 2 000ha, and a significant proportion of Durban’s businesses have settled into Tongaat Hulett’s 14 office park developments. Mount Edgecombe is no exception, with commercial property developments including Broadlands Activity Park, Mount Edgecombe Activity Park and Old Mill Industrial Park. 

He says the Broadlands Activity Park provides an effective buffer for the Broadlands and Mount Edgecombe residential areas from the busy R102, infrastructure that will eventually connect Mount Edgecombe to Pinetown. 

Consequently, the park holds attraction for smaller businesses seeking high accessibility near the well-established industrial, commercial, residential and retail developments. 

The Mount Edgecombe Activity Park, situated only 5km from the N2, comprises a variety of warehouses, retail elements and offices as well as small-scale hightech industries. 

The nearby Old Mill Industrial Park has ease of accessibility to areas in all directions with the traditional Durban CBD 20km away and the Umhlanga commercial and industrial hub 8km away. 

Mount Edgecombe Industrial Park Old Mill Park. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Unlike other commercial and residential developments, the industrial parks do not have controlled access. Only the individual properties are fenced off with gate-controlled access. Reflecting a sense of pride among owners and tenants, the well-kept verges are planted with indigenous succulents, cycads, palm trees and other flowering shrubbery. 

The sounds of an approaching spring are evident in the continuous chatter of weavers furiously building nests in the fever trees. However, the areas have not forgotten their heritage. 

When the original Indian labourers arrived in Durban, they brought with them their culture and religion – numerous Hindu temples still stand as testament to those early settlers. 

The golden orange beauty of the Shri Mariamman Temple overlooks Old Mill Industrial Park from its position in Siphosethu Road. Built in 1890, its presence offers a sanctuary from the noise and bustle of today’s commercial existence. 

The golden orange beauty of the Shri Mariamman Temple overlooks Old Mill Industrial Park. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

There are many properties for sale and rental within the industrial parks. Estate agency Prime Property Group has several Broadlands Office Park properties on its books for sale or rental, including two which agent Adele Maistry posted this week. 

The first is a 65m² office for sale for R810 000, including two parking bays, and the second an 80m² office space to rent for R137.50/m² that also has the option for being rented fully furnished for R15 000.

Seeff has a 435m² property in a gated industrial park for R80/m². The unit consists of two offices, an open-plan mezzanine and three-phase power and has a three to fiveyear lease period. Keeron Properties has a 360m² space for rental at R108.30/m² including VAT in Siphosethu Road. 

The duplex free-standing building has two offices downstairs and another two on the first floor. Kopp Commercial agent Peter Vetter has two Mount Edgecombe properties for sale. The first is a 66m² office unit that has recently been renovated and is on the market for R810 000, and the second is a 90m² facility comprising four offices and large open-plan strongroom, reception area, kitchenette and toilet space for R1.9 million.

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