Sandton skyscraper set to smash records
It's not often one sees a major venture emerge with little fanfare, especially a building that's set to be the tallest in Africa, set in the financial hub of the country. The fact that there's been no hype around The Leonardo makes it all the more interesting.
The brainchild of Legacy Hotels and Resorts chair and CEO Bart Dorrestein, it was a strategic decision to develop the building without much attention-seeking - rather to let people see with their own eyes as the building redefines the Sandton skyline.
Dorrestein became a doyen of the construction and leisure industry during his 25 years at Stocks & Stocks, and was known as an entrepreneur who, together with his team, took on fast-track development projects for many of the big entrepreneurs of that era, including the legendary Sol Kerzner.
Dorrestein left Stocks in 1999 to form the Legacy brand. And after buying Stocks Hospitality assets, the company now operates and manages 30 hotels and resorts.
The R3bn skyscraper is a joint venture between Legacy and Nedbank's property division. A mixed-use development, it will offer luxury residential apartments and penthouses, and 7,500m² of office space, "which is 90% sold out", said Dorrestein.
What has been the tallest building in Sandton is another Legacy development, the Michelangelo Towers. The Carlton Centre is the country's tallest building at a stated height of 223m, followed by Ponte Tower at 172.8m. The Leonardo is set to be 233m.
So why build this now, when our economic and political climates are so tenuous?
The joint-venture decision was taken about five years ago and building started three years ago. Dorrestein said the same question had been asked in 1992, "when we developed Mandela Square. It was an uncertain time, work was scarce and we had a lot of good people who were the backbone of our company to look after. We needed to keep going and had faith."
The Leonardo wasn't started with the intent of becoming Africa's tallest building. The first phase was 33 floors. Then in September last year planners decided to add an additional 10 floors, plus penthouses. Those 10 floors could include the shell of a five- or six-star hotel, subject to market demand. It will be the group's third hotel in the area.
On top of the hotel are eight penthouses and on top of those is the Leonardo suite, an apartment that is 3,200m² in area with 1,900m² of habitable space and 1,300m² for entertainment, and a pool.
Facilities will also be open to people who don't live and work in the building. There will be retail and a conference centre.
Dorrestein said there would also be "a fantastic lobby, which overlooks the street", "fabulous coffee shops and a bar area", as well as "top-notch" security.
Legacy will run the building and operate luxury rental-pool apartments.
Though the market has hardened over the past few years, Dorrestein said The Leonardo seemed to have bucked the trend. "But it's about location. You can't better the Michelangelo and DaVinci [hotel] location. We remain a preferred location."
One-bedroom apartments of 70m² start at around R3.5m, and the penthouses will sell for about R60m. There are 14 lifts in the building. "It will be mind-blowing for the people of Sandton and around."
The development will be open before the end of the second quarter of this year.
Keillen Ndlovu, head of listed property funds at Stanlib, said Sandton accounts for 26.4% of all office development activity in the country, followed by Waterfall at 19.3% and Rosebank in Johannesburg at 12.3%.
Ndlovu said, however, that Sandton is oversupplied with office space and the Sandton CBD skyline was beginning to look crowded. Traffic congestion continued to be a challenge. "The transport infrastructure has not been able to keep up with the growth and expansion of the node."..