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Umgeni Business Park: Once where hippos roamed

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From 1991, with one "lone ranger" retailer, this commercial region has grown into a hive of activity.

Umgeni Business Park occupies a broad expanse of land below the Springfield residential neighbourhood, traversed by Umgeni Road on the southern side and divided by the Umgeni River. The northern boundary stretches across to Sea Cow Lake, incorporating vast sweeps of the former floodplain in which hippos (or sea cows) used to roam and wallow, and embracing captivating names like Aloefield and Willowfield crescents, Ashfield Avenue and Palmfield Road.

When Makro Springfield opened its doors in 1991, the cash-and-carry retailer was a virtual lone ranger amid the vast acres of available land for development. Today Umgeni Business Park is a hive of activity integrating myriad businesses and economic growth factors.

The well-kept communal areas, dotted with fever trees and indigenous succulents that attract the ubiquitous masked weavers building their nests and cheeky Indian mynas, connects a diverse range of developments.

There are large-scale stand-alone buildings housing advertising agencies, motor vehicle auction houses and caravan and camping equipment retailers. There are gated business parks with security guards that cater for traders demanding space for flagship stores, and one-man operations whose success can be intrinsically linked to the proximity of anchor tenants.
A typical scene in many of the business park’s complexes where smaller businesses and national franchises work side by side. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

There are also communal parks. 

Among the addresses are Springfield Value Centre, Flamingo Industrial Park, Springfield Retail Centre and Durban China City – an institution reflective of South Africa’s now-close trading ties with the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) trading bloc.

The mall exposes customers to a culturally mixed shopping experience which offers a range of items including inexpensive Chinese goods. Divided into numerous smaller shops, retailers sell virtually everything under a single warehouse roof – from clothes to jewellery, electronics, household utensils and Chinese medicines.

The downside – do not expect receipts nor adherence to the Consumer Protection Act in terms of return policies or other key elements.

The selection of destination stores at Springfield Retail Centre attracts a vast array of customers who may be seeking their weekly fruit and vegetables or buying beds, re-carpeting their properties or needing a refreshing bite to eat and cup of coffee.

Across the road Springfield Value Centre, also established nearly 30 years ago, is another destination centre where its tenants guarantee value for money. It is geared towards drawing in consumers and allowing retailers to trade off their collective whole rather than struggling as single entities looking to entice buyers.
The Umgeni River flows through Springfield – there is plenty of rental space available.
Picture: Terry Haywood Photography
Rental office space abounds with signs posted throughout the region. The Ithala-owned Flamingo Industrial Park has units ranging from 125m² to 1 250m² to cater for growing businesses. 

The free-standing building at 17 Kosi Place is on the rental market for R110/m², bringing 1 883m² of industrial space to potential clients. The property can be sub-divided to accommodate a range of businesses. 

Also available is an industrial property at 95 Intersite Avenue offering potential customers 2 119m² of warehousing for R97.21/m². The property consists of an office and warehouse component close to equal ratio with 18 parking bays and yard space. 

The warehouse has a height of 8m with access via four on-grade roller doors. Also on Intersite Avenue is a commercial property office space to rent. Situated in a secure complex, the 797m² office has a monthly rental price of R100/m².

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