Sisa Ngebulana’s commercial property outfit Billion Group, is pressing ahead with its massive Greenfield development plans after breaking ground on the R1.6bn Forest Hill City, a mixed use development that is to bless the Centurion area in Pretoria (Tshwane).
The black economic empowerment (BEE) outfit, Billion Group, launched the Forest Hill City development last week in a function attended by the City of Tshwane City Executive Mayor, Kgosientso Ramokgopa.
Forest Hill City is designed as a mixed development that will ultimately combine office, retail and residential space. The precinct is anchored by Forest Hill Mall which will boast gross lettable area of 72 000 m2 it’s the area’s largest mal and promises to offer “the best of South African and international fashion, food and entertainment brands”.
The launch Forest Hill City represents another significant milestone in the march of BEE in the commercial property sector with Ngebulana in the pioneering position. Ngebulana’s march entered the national radar screens about two years ago after he brought the first black controlled property fund into the JSE. This is after he developed two shopping centers in East London, in the Eastern Cape. These were the Hemingways Mall and Mdantsane City which opened for trade in 2009 and 2008 respectively. Ngebulana bundled these developments together with office properties and listed them on the JSE under Rebosis Property Fund. Rebosis has since grown its asset base from R2bn at listing two years ago to rest around the R5bn mark.
It could be that Billion Group will eventually inject the Forest Hill City Development into the Rebosis Property Fund which will further boost the rankings of the fund on the JSE. Billion Group has also announced plans to develop another shopping centre in the Eastern Cape, a R1.75bn development called Bay West City in Port Elizabeth. The Group’s current development pipeline adds to a total value of R7.1 billion and a total GLA of 370 000 m2.
Commenting on Forest Hill, Ngebulana said the development “epitomises urban living – where people eat, live and play in a safe and convenient environment. The mall has excellent access and egress and is located on an offramp in South Africa’s fastest growing residential node.”
In its statement Billion Group said the R1,6 billion mall is located on a major interchange, spanning 1km along the N14 highway and 300 metres along the R55 in Monavoni, Centurion, south west of Pretoria. This intersection connects Midrand, Centurion, Sandton, Johannesburg, Krugersdorp and Pretoria. Its location will service the current 112 500 households in the primary catchment area, which is set to grow to almost 160 000 households by 2014. The current area retail undersupply is 250 000 m2. The mall is a first phase of a larger retail development which will expand to a planned 110 000 m2 of retail.
“We have received over 80% commitments from leading international and South African brands, including Checkers Hyper, House and Home, Woolworths, Truworths, Edgars, Ster Kinekor, Foschini Group, Pick and Pay, Pepkor and Mr Price Group brands. Banks, food and entertainment franchises are also well represented and the mall will boast and ice rink.” Ngebulana continued.
“Forest Hill Mall’s architectural design matches our development philosophy of enhancing the overall lifestyle experience of the prospective end-user. At the same time we were cognisant of our responsibility to the community and environment within which the mall is located.” Ngebulana continued.
The statement added that Forest Hill Mall introduces the latest in international trends optimising shopper convenience and dwell time. The 4 split-level parking consisting of 2 400 bays at 600 bays per level is a novel and is located at the centre of the mall, providing covered, quick and easy access from any point of arrival. The mall’s walkways and all shops will be on a circular race track, allowing exposure to all tenants without changing levels. Additional external parking will provide access to Woolworths, Clicks and the food and entertainment node, bringing the total number of bays to 4 320.
Opening of the Forest Hill Mall is set for April 2014.