Against the backdrop of increasing investment in sustainable buildings that support the circular economy, Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront is reporting much improved performance in all its property sectors.
The V&A Waterfront, one of the most visited destinations in Cape Town’s domestic and international tourism offering, says it expects a bumper season as local and international visitors are set to return in large numbers. Comparing 2022 to 2021, the precinct’s retail sales indicate a positive growth, predicted to be a match for and possibly surpassing, the figures for 2019. Year 2019 is regarded by many property asset owners as a baseline; a “last normal” before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
At a media briefing, the V&A Waterfront’s CEO David Green said: “People the world over have been restricted for the best part of two years but borders have reopened, air travel is returning, and people are raring to travel. We have experienced a rapid recovery since January 2022, with international tourism increasing every month. We anticipate positive footfall across the V&A Waterfront and a significant increase in our sales as we’re already seeing double digit positive growth in previous months up to now.”
According to Green, “so far this year, retail sales figures have shown a very strong recovery”.
The hard-hit hotel sector is seeing bookings climb and all 15 hotels in the precinct are open, he says. This is significant, since prior to the pandemic, 75% of hotel revenue was driven by international key source markets.
“The return of local and international sporting events such as the recent Rugby World Cup Sevens and World Masters Hockey and the Ocean Race 2022/2023, which stops over in the Mother City in February 2023, as well as leading conference events, are the drivers for this notable recovery for the hotel sector,” he adds.
The commercial building portfolio
Some years back, the V&A Waterfront’s commercial portfolio surpassed its retail portfolio, altering the prior dominance of retail and tourism, hence continued economic recovery is also driving demand for additional office and commercial space which is being accommodated in existing buildings. In recent months, staff occupancy levels have returned to levels close to pre-pandemic as companies appear to opt for a hybrid office/work-from-home system, Green says.
Development, construction and sustainability
During the lockdown, V&A management took the opportunity to upgrade key infrastructure, including changing certain road systems and upgrading drop-and go and e-hailing facilities to improve the overall visitor experience. Key infrastructural developments are:
- construction on the multi-tenanted office building in the Canal District anchored by Investec Bank and scheduled for completion in early 2023;
- this will include the new Caltex/Astron Energy fuel service station, to reopen in November;
- a refresh of the Alfred Mall below the V&A Hotel, including a new welcome plaza to signpost Cape Town;
- the reimagining and redevelopment of the Union Castle Building;
- the international franchise Time Out Market, to open in Cape Town in 2023; and
- the iconic Cape Wheel (ferris wheel) relocated to its new setting overlooking Granger Bay, offering spectacular sea views.
Representing a real commitment to COP goals and to the circular economy, the V&A Waterfront has undertaken some first-in-class sustainability developments which have come on line already, or will do so in the near future.
It has also reduced its grid energy consumption by 47% and invested R40 million in energy-efficiency projects.
Currently, the precinct generates 2 MW of renewable energy through solar power and intends to double this in the next two years, supported by the reroofing of the Victoria Wharf, which is well underway.
The V&A has also invested in essential infrastructure to ensure the precinct is sufficiently immune to the immediate challenge of loadshedding.
“Having all our hotels, restaurants and retailers consistently trading normally throughout load shedding is a competitive advantage, and nothing less than what is expected from a premier destination,” Green adds.
According to Green, construction of a 3.3 megalitre desalination plant in the Pierhead District has commenced and will be completed by the end of 2023 financial year. This will be sufficient to meet the V&A’s daily water requirement and take its water consumption completely off-grid.
“To offset the energy required to operate the plant, we are exploring pyrolysis (biomass power) in line with our goal of using zero-energy from the grid,” Green adds.
Significantly, the developer also launched a black water treatment plant which will convert 10% to 15% of the precinct’s sewerage water for re-use in irrigation and toilet flushing. Currently the plant is processing 6.5 kl/day, to be expanded to a target of 9 kl/day. This is a milestone in the adoption of this oft-spoken-about technology as the new normal.