Rise of the giants

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Rising up out of the familiar Gaborone skyline, concrete and steel titans are slowly emerging as a testament to the city’s rapid growth and irresistible allure for property investors.

From decades ago when the 11-storey Orapa House towered over the city, the perfect set of factors are combining to encourage the development of skyscrapers in the city.

The iconic Onion Tower, a once much revered landmark and the stuff of urban legends for rural children, has long retreated under the shadows of towering structures and is now a reminder of the city’s humble beginnings.

The age of the titans has arrived.

On Wednesday, the Botswana Development Corporation proudly unveiled its state of the art behemoth, which boasts 15 storeys and two basement floors.  Rising up in the east of the city, Fairscape Precinct represents a new path in the city’s property sector, where investors are pushing for multi-use developments.

“We have done our in-depth market survey and we are convinced a development with unique features and offerings such as Fairscape is viable with the current market trends and such is backed by blue chip clients who have moved in and those we are in talks with,” explains Boitshwarelo Lebang, the corporation’s marketing communications head.

“The precinct is positioned in everyway as a First-Grade financial services centre with ‘Work-Live-Play’ as the concept at its epicentre.” The Work-Live-Play or multi-use concept is seeing the development of skyscrapers with retail shops at the ground floor, offices in the middle and residential apartments at the top. Many boast exclusive leisure facilities in their penthouses and at the apex.

A real estate expert, who would rather remain anonymous for professional reasons, explains that a recent policy change is underpinning the Work-Live-Play concept in Gaborone.

“It was not until some two or three years ago that multi-use was allowed,” the expert says. “Before that, a building had to have a single use. We saw it first in the Central Business District.

“The planners are now more flexible and developers are able to have a hotel, retail and offices in the same building.”

In the CBD stands the city and the country’s tallest buildings, the iTowers.  The tower that has already been built comes in at a whopping 19 floors excluding the ground floor and two basement floors, while the other under development will boast 28 floors and two basement floors.

To put this in perspective, the taller iTower, when complete, will approximately be equal in height to four SADC headquarters’ buildings stacked on top of the other.

Both iTowers do not have a 13th floor owing to a long standing property development rule catering for the possible, whether remote or otherwise, that potential tenants could be superstitious.

So with the city facing a shortage of land set against positive forecasts for investment and population growth, does the future lie in the skyscrapers?

“The future for skyscrapers lies in unique value-propositions,” says Lebang. “There aren’t any others coming up now, but people could get ambitious, especially in the CBD,” says the property expert.

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