It seems like yesterday when Investec Property’s Iain Burns drove me around the site of what will soon become Durban’s newest retail offering, Cornubia Mall. It was more like 18 months ago. Anyway, like typical property prospectors, we surveyed the site and marvelled at what it could become. We stood in the shade of a majestic 100-year-old fig tree and tried to imagine what it would look like. Iain Burns is a zealously property man, and enthusiastically sketched out the mall with his arms sweeping in big arches through the sky.
It would be an outdoor centre, with acres of space, oriented towards active, outdoor types and surrounded by a prime mountain biking track. In other words, not a place for typical mall rats. And the fig tree would stay, Burns insisted. Fast forward 18 months and Burns and I went back. We stood beneath the same tree and the sight is something to behold. D-Day is dawning for Cornubia’s newest shopping mall. The 66 000m² centre will open on September 28, and, if successful, Investec has plans for an additional 20 000m². So far Investec Property has put R1,8-billion into the centre and has attracted all the national, blue chip tenants. Edgars will have a 6 000m² store, and Virgin Active, Outdoor Warehouse, Clicks, Dis-Chem, Checkers, Pick n Pay and Woolworths are also in.
The centre is 95% let and will have a medical suite too. The centre has high visibility from the M41 and stores are connected by landscaped paths and pedestrian bridges. At the heart of the development is a “town square” (though it is more of an oval) with restaurants surrounding it. Investec’s idea is to complement rather than compete with Gateway. As Burns puts it, “It is the most comprehensive grocery offering in the area with 1 700 ground-level parkings. There has been massive focus on convenience, with generous walkways, careful landscaping, and ample pause and meeting areas outside.”
There is also a 100km mountain biking trail in the greenbelt adjacent to the centre which runs to Ballito and back. Among the new concepts on offer at the mall will be a 2 000m² Cycle Lab, the first Consol Glass Retail store in Durban, Bounce INC, the award-winning indoor trampoline park, and three Astro Turf five-aside soccer fields with a clubhouse for functions and events. “There’s a big focus on familyorientated activities and entertainment. Nu Metro is opening eight cinemas, including a state-of-the-art 4DX multisensory cinema,” Burns said.
Property pundits have predicted Cornubia will change the face of Durban. It is being developed in a partnership between the government and Tongaat Hulett Developments with a 10 to 20-year timeline. A stone’s throw away from Mount Edgecombe, Cornubia is obscured by hills covered in sugar cane. Behind that, huge swathes of land have been graded, apportioned and lots sold. New roads separate grids of commercial, residential and retail space. Cornubia is superbly well-situated. When the Mount Edgecombe Interchange is complete, another bridge (already under construction) will enhance access. This bridge will span the N2, joining Cornubia and uMhlanga Ridge.
Frontrunners in the industrial space include Redefine, which has produced 90 000m² worth of warehousing on 146 610 m² of land. Other big local property companies are also involved. ZenProp has developed buildings worth R190-million for clients, and JT Ross has bought 160 000m² of land. The total investment in Cornubia is already R3,8-billion, according to Tongaat Hulett, and a further R3,1-billion has been committed for the next two to three years. Cornubia is 750 hectares of developable land in total, 15km south of King Shaka International Airport, and is a government priority project that will eventually be home to 100 000 people.
About 2 000 homes have already been built. There is 392 hectacres of land between the shops, offices and warehouses earmarked for parks, gardens and rehabilitated wetlands. Grant Smith from JT Ross said, “THD’s well-thought-out master plan for Cornubia would soon emerge into reality with the opening of the new Cornubia Mall.” The retail environment, he said, would advance the growth of industrial and office spaces and attract further residential investment close to work places. “The mixed-use precinct is a strong catalyst for inclusive urban growth, and JT Ross retains a keen interest in Cornubia as a progressive development node. We’ve seen a marked increase in take up of land there.”