Cape Town – Get ready for a multimillion-rand development that will see Philippi launched as the hub of Cape Town’s central suburbs.
The old cement factory in Philippi is undergoing a multimillion-rand metamorphosis that will, over the next several years, include a four-storey hotel, a nightclub, a private hospital and an education zone and the biggest “container” shopping mile in the country.
It will cost about R100 million for each of the 10 phases of the Philippi Village, but those involved with the project are confident that investors and tenants will see the potential of the area.
Amor Strauss, general manager of the Philippi Village, said the “the hub” already offers A-grade office space in Philippi, an industrial area with one of the highest unemployment rates in the city.
The ongoing development of this precinct will transform this marginalised area into thriving “central suburbs”.
Although there are some businesses and enterprises already operating from the site, the hub of the Philippi Village will be officially launched in September.
The old cement factory was bought by The Business Place Philippi in early 2000 and the building was refurbished as a thesis project in sustainable design for Cape Town architect, Philip Briel.
The “hub” at the heart of the precinct, which houses offices, a call centre and conference space, contains the original buttresses and stones from the cement factory. This space has been operating since 2005. Abalimi Bezikhaya provides support to urban micro-farmers, and the African Cafe provides bakery and coffee shop skills training.
There is also a container-based fish farm.
The further development of the larger precinct, about 12 hectares, is ongoing and dependent on funding. The Bertha Foundation, based at UCT’s Graduate School of Business, and the Jobs Fund, invested R80m for the construction of the new business hub and to get the next phase off the ground.
The ground floor has already been fully let and half of the offices on the second floor are occupied.
Strauss said the aim was to provide an opportunity for “business incubation”. But she said the businesses had to be sustainable, and the ideal would be to get an anchor corporate tenant.
The pre-primary is already open and a Leap Maths and Science Academy also operates from the premises.
The city library across the road, which has been vandalised several times, will soon relocate to the hub’s ground floor.
Strauss said 250 people applied to rent the 24 remodelled containers being let out as a pilot phase of the much bigger “container walk” that will follow later. Within a week, tenants had paid R60 000 in deposits as a sign of their genuine interest in setting up shop there.
The container walk has been designed for start-ups and small businesses.
The plans have already been approved for the private hospital. This medical facility, as well as the 84-bed hotel, will be built over the next two years.
Strauss said the hotel would give guests a taste of the township experience. The hotel is being planned for the silo buildings of the old factory, and will include a nightclub on the top floor.
With plans to expand Cape Town International Airport with the realignment of the runway, this hotel will be in a prime position. It would also have a conference facility and hotel training school so that students with an interest in the hospitality industry would be able to train there, close to their homes in Philippi and surrounding areas.
“We always do a double dip so that we can do more than one thing. We want to get tenants who pay the rent and create jobs,” said Strauss.
The film industry is understandably drawn to the precinct, with its imposing buttresses and cavernous spaces. One of these areas will be transformed into a soccer field that will also boast a clinic where residents will be able to get basic health checks.
Strauss’s vision is to create a vibrant, creative space where the two worlds – that of the Philippi township and the rest of Cape Town – can meet and interact. She estimated that about 100 students – many of them international – already pass through the doors of the hub each year.
“We want it to be an interesting space that has been built first for the locals, but that others can also visit and enjoy.”
Philippi doesn’t have a reputation as a welcoming space. It’s close to Nyanga, Cape Town’s “murder capital” and access from major roads is difficult. Strauss said she was not unaware of the security challenges of the area. Instead of just hiring more security, she said the Village would have a security training school on-site, and would also rely on neighbourhood watches that would get people to the precinct safely.
Strauss said the evolution of the project has shown that the usual solutions that would work in other suburbs, are not viable in Philippi. Instead, the team has been forced to find innovative alternatives to problems.
Thomas Swana, chief executive officer of the Philippi Economic Development Initiative, said the Village was at the epicentre of the city’s economy.