All roads lead to Baywest

2015-05-20 06:00

(Supplied)

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MORE than 5 000 construction workers and shop fitters worked feverishly this past weeked to add the finishing touches to the biggest and most eagerly anticipated shopping and entertainment complex in the Eastern Cape, the R1.7-billion Baywest Mall in Port Elizabeth’s western suburbs.

The mall, constructed in a record 24 months, opens its doors to the public at 10am tomorrow (Thursday), shortly after a VIP ceremony during which Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle will cut a ceremonial ribbon indicating the start of the mall’s operation.

At 10am sharp, ribbons spanning the mall’s eight entrances over its two levels will be simultaneously cut to allow shoppers to enjoy Baywest Mall and the grand opening festivities planned for the rest of the week.

According to Baywest Mall GM, Sonja de Necker, the mall had prioritised shopper safety, as well as ease of access for shoppers with cars and those using public transport.

Security breaches at shopping malls around the country have put a sharp focus on mall security, while in Nelson Mandela Bay commuters have bemoaned the lack of proper public transport facilities at major malls.

“Baywest Mall has a dedicated public transport drop-off and pick-up point, which we have tailored to meet commuters’ needs,” said De Necker.

“Not only is this facility at the doorstep of the mall, meaning commuters won’t have to walk far, but it is roofed and offers a much-needed canteen and ablution facilities for drivers.”

While there were eight easy access points to the double-storey mall’s safe and secure parking facilities, the special public transport access point had been incorporated at ground level, leading to the roofed drop-off and pick-up point, said De Necker.

While the public transport drop-off and pick-up point would be operational from tomorrow, the facilities would be completed towards the end of June, she said.

Leading to the mall, the R300-million Baywest road network not only links shoppers conveniently to Baywest Mall via the N2 freeway and Walker Drive in Sherwood, but also links Sherwood to the N2, alleviating traffic congestion in the western suburbs.

Baywest Mall also boasted high-tech security, De Necker added.

“We have prioritised shopper security,” she said, adding that 230 state-of-the-art CCTV cameras with facial and number plate recognition software were placed strategically throughout the mall and the parking area which surrounds the mall on both floors.

“The entire access to the mall is controlled with security booms. We have also trained up our security team and will have guards patrolling the mall and the parking area constantly. They will be on foot, on bicycles, quad bikes and in patrol vehicles,” said De Necker. All the stores would also be fitted with panic buttons, she said.

To further ensure shopper safety, De Necker said, hoodies and caps would not be permitted inside the new mall.

“Research shows that security breaches at malls occur mostly at the hands of suspects who hide their faces with caps or hoodies. We will be asking our patrons to remove their hoodies, and if they are wearing caps, to either take them off or wear them back-to-front, so their faces are easily visible to our security cameras.”

Another safety element employed is that of controlled parking, and deploying specially trained security personnel rather than car guards. There was an incremental parking rate for this, said De Necker, to ensure those accessing the parking were there to visit the mall.

“By implementing an incremental parking rate, we eliminate the need for car guards as our security personnel will be patrolling the car park,” said De Necker.

Parking for the first hour is free.

The size of the mall – the largest in the Eastern Cape at 90 000m² – meant shops would be open for longer, to suit shoppers’ needs, De Necker said. The Fun Factory entertainment node and restaurants would open from 9am to 10pm, seven days a week, while the general retailers would open from 9am to 7pm Sunday to Thursday, and 9am to 9pm on Fridays, Saturdays and public holidays, she said.

De Necker, said the mall would be trading at between 70% and 80% occupancy when it opened tomorrow, with more exciting tenants opening their doors in the following months. By December, the mall would be fully let, she said.

The mall’s major anchor tenants who will be opening for business tomorrow include the largest Woolworths in the province, the first Checkers Hyper in the province, Edgars and Game. All four anchor stores will span between 5 500m² and 8 500m².

The games arcade Nitro Park, which will also boast a bowling alley and a bumper cars circuit, will also open tomorrow.

Outlets which will open in the months following the grand opening include Ster-Kinekor (mid-June); Toys R Us (July); Factorie and Cotton On (September); and Platinum Group stores which include Jenny Button, Hilton Weiner; Vertigo and Urban (date to be announced).

The biggest private development in the province, the mall is the catalyst to an even bigger development – that of Baywest City, which with its lifestyle, commercial and residential developments spanning the next 10 to 15 years will mimic the iconic Century City development in Cape Town, which developed around the Canal Walk shopping centre.

The development has been a massive economic boost for the region, having created about 4 500 jobs during the construction phase of the mall (a more than 40% increase on the 3 000 direct jobs the developers had originally forecast for the project), according to independent auditors BTKM. The operational phase of the mall is creating a further 2 500 much-needed permanent jobs.

According to BTKM’s May audit, 76.8% of workers on site hail from the Eastern Cape (50% of whom come from the NMB metro), while about 95% of workers classify as “previously disadvantaged individuals” (PDIs).

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