Old Mutual like any business, is in business to make profits. To what degree any business should express some sort of social conscience may be indicated by the community it does business in. In South Africa every company is under pressure to have (CSI) Corporate Social Investment programmes indicating a social conscience and a willingness to be part of social change.
Old Mutual Property, owners of Gateway Shopping Centre, announced on the 31st January “continues to look for innovative ways in which to make valuable contributions to sustainable community development and township upliftment.” This is referring, in particular, to the redevelopment of the Kagiso Mall in Mogale City.
This isn’t the first time Old Mutual Properties have done successful revamps of late. A few years back they were awarded the Golden Arrow Award for the revamp of the Riverside Mall in Nelspruit and awards were also won for the revamp of The Bluff Shopping Centre.
Kagiso is a township falling under the Mogale City municipality. The mall was an old 1980’s white elephant with poor occupancy rates. The shopping centre had become irrelevant to the community. Although the anchor tenant, Shoprite remained, a further 9200sqm of retail has been created, about 50 shops including late-night fast-food outlets.
Old Mutual Property’s Hein Smit believes this is “a sustainable contribution to the environment and township communities, which enables wider socio-economic upliftment.” He insists that the sustainability is all in the design which includes “utilising local skills and expertise in the development phase, re-usable building materials (which are donated to the local community if not used in the new development), rainwater harvesting, low energy lighting and improved insulation specifications.”
If one is looking for Old Mutual Property’s track record there is always the Phanghami Mall which took advantage of a more decentralised retail development area servicing 8 townships and various surrounding villages. Close to the Punda Maria gate of Kruger National Park it has a tourism component to the project. Aspects of community upliftment in the construction and management of the centre were considered vital to the scheme. R75 Million was invested.
Similarly Phumlani Mall in Tembisa on the East Rand was bought for R175 Million and revamped with the purpose of uplifting the community. With a reported tenant mix of 75% National chains one hopes there is something still in for local retail.
As commendable as these projects may be one has to consider them in the light of other projects on the go elsewhere. For example Old Mutual Properties has announced that it plans to invest a whopping R20 Billion in a “Town Centre” project focused on the Gautrain station in Midrand comprising 350 hectares of land. Old Mutual Property also has Rosebank’s The Zone in its quiver. This year the plan is to add an office tower in Rosebank to the budgeted tune of R340 Million.
Throw in R2 Billion rand to be spent on revitalising Menlyn this year it’s interesting to note that Old Mutual Property’s property portfolio is bordering on R35Billion 70% weighed on retail, 10% around offices with the balance in industrial premises. One doesn’t want to detract from the good work done in the name of Corporate Social Investment but we may to keep a little perspective before feeling all warm and fuzzy.