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Shop centres still bank on spending

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25 Apr 2008

While statistics reveal that retail sales growth has slowed - to an annual 1,5% in October 2007, the lowest in almost five years – shopping centre owners and developers continue to bank on the South African consumer's steadfast desire to spend.

Bearing testimony to this is more than R2,3bn worth of work that a leading building contractor is busy with, and has recently completed, at shopping centres around the country.

Neil Potgieter, managing director of the Grinaker-LTA's building business unit, reports that one of the latest additions to its order book in this sector is a R350m contract to extend and refurbish the Eastgate shopping centre in Bedfordview, east of Johannesburg.

The contract at Eastgate, which is being undertaken for Liberty Group Properties, kicked off in January and is scheduled for completion in May 2009. Comprising some 45,000sq m of refurbishments, a major challenge for Grinaker-LTA will be working in a well-established retail environment, notes contracts director John McLaughlin.

"Working close to the public means there will be an increased emphasis on safety. Keeping noise and dust pollution to a minimum will be a priority, and the demolition work will take place at night."

The project consists of the relocation of the centre's food court and restaurants, refurbishments and extensions to some of the existing shops, as well as the addition of new retail space, and refurbishments to some of the entrances. A new, single storey parkade will also be constructed.

"This contract comprises three sections. The first of these is adjacent to Eastgate's Entrance 5, where there will be an extension to the roof parking deck slab, to allow for the relocation of restaurants and fast food courts on the new and existing roof slab. Minor refurbishments will also be made to Entrance 9," says .McLaughlin

"There are approximately 20 tenants that need to be temporarily relocated in order for us to structurally strengthen the underside of the existing retractable shutter slabs in their ceiling void. Shopfronts may also have to be removed and reinstalled to allow for the strengthening of the beams in the mall walkway areas."

The new design for Entrance 5 reflects contemporary architecture, with glass curtain walling and skylights. "They allow a profusion of natural light into the centre, reducing the necessity of electrical light," McLaughlin explains.

The second section of this project consists of the refurbishment of Entrance 1 - which will undergo a similar upgrade to Entrance 5, allowing for further retail shops to be built. "Once again steel and glass will emphasise the contemporary architecture," says McLaughlin. This portion of the contract also entails the extension of the centre's Truworths store.

The third section of Eastgate's facelift consists of the new 22,500sq m single-storey parkade. Future expansion has been provided for, with the structural engineers having allowed for additional levels at a later stage.

The construction of the parking deck will be phased, McLaughlin states, with the works commencing on half of the deck in August 2008 and re-commencing in January 2009, to allow for the unutilised half of the parkade to provide extra parking during the 2008 festive season.

In December, just ahead of the festive season shopping rush, Grinaker-LTA Building, part of the JSE-listed Aveng Group, completed contracts totalling more than R336m for extensions and upgrades at three KwaZulu-Natal shopping malls – the Amajuba Mall in Newcastle, Umhlanga's Gateway Theatre of Shopping and The Pavilion in Westville, Durban.

Towards the end of 2007, the firm completed its R370m contract for the construction of Soweto's first "super mall", the 65,000sq m Maponya Mall.

The contractor is currently building three new malls in Durban.

A R550m contract is underway for the construction of a new 60,000sq m shopping centre in the new Bridge City Precinct which boarders Kwa-Mashu and Phoenix.

Grinaker-LTA Building is also building the 35,000sq m Westwood Shopping Centre in Durban and Philani Valley in Umlazi. The latter is the first formal shopping centre in Umlazi's "Y" Section, and its R80-million construction contract is due to be completed in May. The firm's R345m fast-track contract for Westwood Shopping Centre is scheduled for completion in September.

Still in KwaZulu-Natal, Grinaker-LTA Building is close to wrapping up contracts totalling R230m at Richards Bays' Boardwalk Shopping Centre, which is being refurbished and extended.

A R85m contract for a major facelift and extensions to East London's Vincent Park shopping centre was completed in February 2008. This undertaking has boosted the size of the city's largest shopping centre by 5,000sq m.

For more information contact Neil Potgieter on 011 578 6200 or send an email. Click here to visit the website.

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