Centre’s point of no return

Athina May

It seems the mothballs are finally being shaken off the stalled Centre Point development on the corner of Loxton and Koeberg roads.

There was a buzz of excitement among Milnerton residents after construction equipment was spotted at the site.

Many had long given up hope of seeing anything emerge from the crater left behind after the old mall was torn down in March 2014. The mall had stood vacant for a year before that.

Tabletalk met with the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which manages the project for the property owners, the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF).

It confirmed that the site was now being prepared for the long-awaited mall development.

“The stencil has been laid, and construction simply has to bring that stencil to life,” said PIC representative Teboho Lekatsa, while overlooking the mall basement, which has become a sore point for many residents whose high hopes for the development evaporated

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after it went into a lengthy hibernation.

The original Centre Point, was aptly named: it was the central hub for many who did their day-to-day shopping. The demolition of the old mall came with hope of a new “up-market” development, but years dragged by and nothing materialised, except a mood among local business people that a great opportunity had been lost. It was a mood summed up by nearby florist Bernard Tuffin.

“We had great expectations for the new development. We would’ve been in a good position to reap the benefits of an upmarket mall,” he said when Tabletalk visited the site last year (“A hole lot of nothing,” Tabletalk, August 19 2015).

Now it seems that opportunity may yet come.

Mr Lekatsa said behind-the-scenes planning had been responsible for much of the delay in getting construction going.

“We don’t wake up and say we want to build; we need to get approvals done which was part of the delay. We know that people are unhappy and want activity here, but we couldn’t build without papers.

“We also needed to give retailers time to prepare as they have requirements which needed to be taken back to the architects to be finalised, but construction will begin this year, that’s why we’ve prepared the basement,” said Mr Lekatsa.

Johan van der Merwe, mayoral committee member for energy , environmental and spatial planning, said a notice to resume and complete the building work had been served on the property’s owner.

“The developer informed the City that they are back on site and are continuing construction.

“An inspection by the responsible building inspector to establish whether construction has commenced has confirmed this,” said Mr Van der Merwe.

PIC senior investor relations specialist Sekgoela Sekgoela said the mall would once again provide a central shopping hub in the area and would provide jobs for locals.

“It will have an entrance off Koeberg Road, with two floors, and retailers such as Pick * Pay will be located on the first floor, and banking facilities and restaurants on the second floor.

“We try to insist on locals getting employment preference and only where certain skills are not available, will they be sourced from outside,” said Mr Sekgoela.

Excitement about the continuation of development was shared on the Milnerton Neighbours Facebook page.

Fran Hall suggested a street party be held to celebrate. Celia Poverello said the community had waited a long time for the development.

“This made my day,” said Cindy Rix.

While no official date has been given for the start of construction, Mr Sekgoela assured residents it would begin this year, come rain or shine.