The History Of Century City
A city for the new century
The dream of Century City was “born” in 1997 when a 250ha wasteland alongside the N1 in Cape Town was rezoned from residential to mixed use development.
The site had previously been owned by a listed company, Ilco Homes which had started developing entry level housing on a neighbouring site to the north separated by a railway line from what is now known as Century City. After Ilco ran into financial difficulties its bankers looked for a white knight and in stepped another Cape Town developer, Monex, headed up by the visionary Martin Wragge.
Wragge realised that the only chance of salvation was to rezone the land from residential to mixed use as the immense amount of infrastructure required could not be sustained by housing alone.
With the rezoning and basket of commercial, residential, retail and leisure rights in place, the first sods were turned in 1997. At the time, many in the industry thought the Century City plan was overly ambitious and indeed unattainable.
The first couple of years were tough going.
The recession was biting and corporates were slow to be convinced of Century City’s potential. Gradually that began to change with big name corporates such as PricewaterHouseCoopers, Vodacom, the Louis Group, SAPS, Unisys and Business Connexion taking the pioneering plunge.
Then in 1998, Ratanga Junction was opened followed two years later by Canal Walk Shopping Centre.
Again the sceptics were out in full force with many predicting the shopping centre would be a White Elephant.
It is no secret Ratanga Junction was overcapitalised for the South African market at the time and the heavy losses incurred in the early years eventually lead to the demise of Monex.
While Ratanga initially ailed (the ride park is now operating successfully on a seasonal basis while the popular function facilities operate year round) Canal Walk rallied and has grown into one of the most successful shopping centres in the country.
And as with Tyger Valley shopping centre, which Wragge had also developed a decade or so earlier, Canal Walk has proven to be a major catalyst for development in the immediate vicinity with offices and residential developments springing up.
In 2004 the remaining undeveloped land and associated rights were acquired by the Rabie Property Group, one of the country’s largest and most successful property developers.
Century City has development rights totalling more than 1,25 million square metres of bulk and at the time Rabie took over the built form stood at around 255 000 square metres.
The timing could not have been better, as it was just at the start of an economic upturn. A significant amount of development has taken place over the past decade with just over one million square metres of bulk currently built or earmarked for development and total investment standing at more than R21billion.