AA - April 2021

Authors:  Propertywheel
21 April 2021

R4BN MIXED-USE AMAZON HEADQUARTERS DEVELOPMENT APPROVED

A 15-hectare parcel of land has been approved for development by the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust for a 150 000m2 mixed-use development with US retail giant, Amazon, as the anchor tenant.

Envisaging the creation of 5 239 jobs during the construction phase alone, the entire project has been deemed to create up to 19 000 indirect and induced jobs.

In a recent media statement, the City of Cape Town said one of the overarching goals of its Municipal Spatial Development (MSFD) framework is sustainable development that balances ecological conservation and urban development.

The City intends for the proposed development to include a combination of residential and commercial opportunities, the rehabilitation of the degraded riverine corridor, improved links with surrounding ecological resources such as the Raapenberg Wetland and the establishment of green space that will be accessible to the public.

To meet the requirements of inclusivity and integration, the proposed development combines various land uses and a mix of income groups by offering market-driven and affordable housing opportunities – the latter of which will be physically integrated with the other residential units in the apartment complexes.

Other parts of the development will include 59 600m2 of office space, 20 700m2 of retail space, an 8 200m2 hotel, a 4 100m2 gym, restaurants, conferencing facilities, a school and events space. Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust stated that 20 percent of the residential floor space will be allocated to affordable housing opportunities.

While the development has been approved as a concept, conditions have been attached requiring further stages of approval during which the developer must submit detailed plans on a range of development aspects. However, the indigenous Khoi groups have voiced their support for the development.

The development will roll out in phases, with construction set to take place over three to five years. The development of Precinct 1 includes mixed-used and a floor space of approximately 60 000m2. Precinct 2 will house Amazon’s headquarters (70 000m2 of floor space).

The developer undertook two specialist studies to outline how the project could proceed in a way that is sensitive to the surrounding ecosystem. To mitigate the future possibility of flooding, the surface level will be raised above the 100-year flood line with a hydrology report concluding that the proposed development would have minimal impact on the prospect of flooding.

The Liesbeek Canal (along the eastern part of the property) will be rehabilitated into a naturalised ravine corridor with the western boundary converted into a vegetated swale (sunken ground covered with plants which will absorb and filter stormwater). This means that the riverine corridor will become more accessible to the public, with viewing points, pedestrian and cycling routes. An expert submission to the Planning Appeals Advisory Panel (PAAP), affirmed these measures as a meaningful opportunity for environmental rehabilitation with the potential for a cleaner, sustainable, and more functional wetland channel.

Roads and infrastructure upgrading

The developer will assume the responsibility and costs for the Berkley Road extension upgrade. This will improve traffic flow in the area and provide several access points to the development’s northern precinct. In the initial phases, a bridge is to be built over the Black River to Liesbeek Parkway, along with the rehabilitation of the Liesbeek Corridor.

The developer will also be responsible for the costs of upgrading the bulk engineering services, including water connections in accordance with municipal standards, amounting to almost R74 million and it has undertaken to establish two sewer pump stations on-site, with the necessary infrastructure to link these to the City’s system.

The City says it is engaging with the developer’s consulting engineers to determine the most efficient drainage and reticulation solutions for the development. This will be included as conditions during the subdivision approvals phase.

The proposed development is in alignment with the Metropolitan Spatial Development Framework’s (MSDF) overall investment guidelines. It will capitalise on the diverse residential and commercial opportunities near urban nodes and facilitate greater connectivity between Metro South and Voortrekker Road Integration Zone, both of which are significant development corridors. The development would also bode well for further investment into public transport infrastructure.

The building’s height will not exceed 44 metres and the design was amended out of sensitivity to the neighbouring SA Astronomical Observatory which is no longer used for astronomical optical observations. The taller buildings will be located on the other side of the site, facing the Berkley Road extension.

Heritage considerations

In April 2018, acting under the Heritage Act, Heritage Western Cape granted provisional heritage protection to the property for a period of two years. This lapsed on the 19th of April 2020 and no further heritage protections have been issued by national or provincial authorities.

The site is not subject to restrictions such as a Heritage Protection Overlay Zone. However, the developer has undertaken to introduce various elements to celebrate culture and heritage where currently including an indigenous garden; a cultural, heritage and media centre for the First Nations; a heritage eco-trail; a garden amphitheatre for use by the First Nations and the public; symbols central to the First Nations narrative and, the naming of internal roads inspired by the First Nations narrative.

It has also been agreed that the developer must invite and consider representations from the First Nations Collective before these are submitted as part of the relevant landscape plan or building plan for each feature.

The land will be rezoned for business and other uses. It is currently zoned as ‘Open Space Zoning 3’ and the developer has applied for the rezoning to ‘Subdivisional Area Overlay Zoning’ to permit general business uses and other uses. The approval is granted under section 98(b) of the Municipal Planning By-Law 2015, which is required to raise the structures on the site above the 100-year flood line.

Among the claims made regarding the development was that the Municipal Planning Tribunal approved the rezoning of the area without the required subdivision plan being made available. However, the City says this is false and it was submitted in 2019, well before the tribunal’s decision.

The original article can be viewed here: