Baywest City set to become ‘pulse of the Bay’

BY SUPPLIED - MARCH 11, 2015

The opening of the R1.7-billion Baywest Mall this April – the Eastern Cape’s largest retail and entertainment centre – is set to change the face of the city and put the region on the map among both commercial and leisure tourists.

While the opening of the mall will bring with it the creation of up to 2,500 permanent jobs, development to the tune of R500-million will roll out around the centre, said Baywest MD Gavin Blows.

The development of Baywest City is a joint venture between national mall developers Abacus Asset Management and Billion Group, the latter of which is headed by former East Londoner Sisa Ngebulana.

Baywest Mall is the catalyst to the development of Baywest City, much the same way as Canal Walk in Cape Town has been the catalyst to the mammoth Century City development.

The mall’s development has sparked a number of significant ‘firsts’ for the region, including a landmark deal with South Africa’s largest mobile communication provider, Vodacom. The deal will see Vodacom light the entire high speed fibre optic backbone of the 320 hectare Baywest City development, providing high speed internet to Baywest Mall tenants and shoppers alike.

By lighting the network, Vodacom will be providing the data to end users using Baywest’s fibre optic infrastructure. Baywest is the first large scale “green fields” development in the country to incorporate a wholly functional fibre optic backbone from inception.

Speaking about the economic impact of the mall on the region, Baywest MD Gavin Blows said an average of 10 permanent jobs would be created to staff the mall’s 250 retail outlets. On top of this, staff would be needed for security and cleaning services at the 90,000m² (gross leasable area/GLA) centre – contracts which would soon be advertised, he said.

“Because Baywest Mall is the catalyst to the entire Baywest City development, development will continue around the mall once it opens in April,” Blows explains.

“We already have R500-million worth of development lined up for this year, which includes office blocks and a motor showroom.”

Blows said the mall’s 30-strong centre management team had been recruited and included operations manager Andre van Niekerk, who hails from Stellenbosch, and centre manager Sonja de Necker, who hails from Nelson Mandela Bay. 

Tenants, such as Shoprite-Checkers, have meanwhile begun the hunt for employees to staff their Baywest outlets with advertisements in the local media and CV collection points at their Port Elizabeth stores.

“We have some exciting stores which will be a first for the region. Added to this is our larger anchor tenants who will bring with them catalogues which have until now only offered in larger centres,” said Blows.

Blows said a key attraction at the mall was its R100-million Fun Factory wing featuring the province’s only ice rink, allowing for the formation of ice hockey leagues and school sports teams. Eight Ster-Kinekor cinemas, restaurants, a ten-pin bowling alley and a state-of-the-art games arcade would also form part of the Fun Factory, he said.

Also included in Phase 1 of the Baywest City development is a gym, a private school and hospital, 100 000m² of office and commercial tenants and about 2 000 housing opportunities. Phase 2 will add another 2 000 housing opportunities, a light industrial park and value retail developments.

“Baywest City is a long-term investment in the region,” said Blows.

“It’s going to change the face of the city and put the Bay on the leisure and corporate tourism map, growing much the same way as Century City in Cape Town has grown around Canal Walk shopping centre.”

The developers are on track to open the mall in April, after seeing out 2014 with news that they had exceeded their job creation targets during the construction phase by more than 40%.

Independent auditors BTKM have confirmed that since construction kicked off in mid-2013, almost 4,300 people have been employed on site by the end of 2014. This represents a 43.3% increase on the 3,000 direct jobs which developers initially forecast for the construction phase of the project.