A new 80-storey building is planned for Sandton City. Paddy Hartdegen wonders how on earth the area can possibly handle the extra people it will bring
I love hair-brained schemes because they sometimes become a reality. I mean who were those okes in Dubai who decided to build a concrete dhow in the sea and call it an hotel. Then they got it graded as a seven-star establishment and it became the best hotel in the world? Most ordinary people probably thought that those blokes were nuts. And just look successful their project is today.
We have a similar hair-brained scheme unfolding on our doorstep. Some nutter (or visionary perhaps) has proposed that Liberty (who owns the property) should tear down Sandton City's office block and put up a new 80-storey building on top of the parking lot instead.
There's no detail on how they plan to take down the existing office tower. They don't seem to have many options: if they implode the thing, it'll blow a hole through the parking lot roof, smashing Ferraris, Astons and BMs by the fistful; if they take it down floor by floor the manual effort alone will take years – and they'll drop buckets of rubble on the even more Astons, Ferraris and BMs parked on the roof outside.
Apparently taking down the office block is just part of a three phase redevelopment at Sandton City, which will see the retail space being extended by about 30 000 m2 to 158 000 m2 and the super-structure (where people are parking at the moment) being strengthened so that the office tower can stand there.
If it goes ahead the new 80-storey building will certainly be tallest in Africa – and given that Johannesburg itself is about 2 000 metres above sea level will probably rank as one of the tallest buildings in the world too.
At this stage I haven't seen any detailed drawings, artist's impressions or other publicity material that is normally handed out when such projects are announced. I'm not particularly concerned about seeing any of it at this stage because I'm confident that the planners, architects and engineers will get all the silly construction details right – like they did at the Kollonade, Brooklyn or Menlyn.
What does interest me about the project is Sandton's town-planners. Now these okes are bright. They sit in their low-rise building in West Street and are only too happy to approve a new 80-storey office block on top of a roof in the heart of Sandon.
"Cool," they say, "Let's pack more people into our district and watch them try'n get home at rush hour. We might be able to block Grayston Drive, William Nichol and Rivonia Road completely. Fast food or mugs of beer and wine are a great answer to gridlock. Think how rich our restaurants will become. Even more money for us."
I can see these town-planners smiling to themselves as they quietly drop a note to the Sandton Metro Police to suggest they might want to increase foot patrols by 2012. Then they can trap the hundreds of drunks who stumble back to their cars that are gridlocked on Rivonia Road. They won't need roadblocks because the road's already blocked. Foot patrols can catch the drunks.
I mean, can you imagine injecting at least another 4 000 cars into Sandton City and its surroundings? With the parking mess that already exists it'll probably be quicker for commuters to park at the Field and Study centre opposite Republic Road (on William Nichol) and hike to work. They could keep their good shoes in their Gucci backpack and use veldskoens to crush through the bushes until they reach the entrance to the new Sandton City.
They better not take off their veldskoens just yet. While they are walking to Sandton City, Eskom might switch off the power so the lifts aren't working. Now all they have to do is trudge up the 80 floors to their splendid A-grade office space.
Pity that they'd left home at 06h30 and only reached their offices just after lunch. They sink into their chairs – bushed in every sense of the word. In due course, Eskom turns on the lights and leave them on for the rest of the two-hour afternoon. Then, considerately, Eskom shut down power just after five.
How these town-planners will be laughing as they watch the Sandton commuters trudge down 80 flights of stairs, traipse through Benmore to the Field and Study centre (in their Veldskoens and Gucci backpacks) then plunge into the bushes just as an afternoon thunderstom pummels them with hail stones the size of pigeons' eggs.
Anyone who experiences the misery of commuting to Sandton these days will understand what I'm talking about. The traffic there is already horrendous and it's getting worse by the week, as more and more high rise building go up around the 10 square km business district.
The property developers have put loads of cash into creating what they call first class A-grade office space. They've also put very little money into parking so tenants get XX-grade (or very, very bad) parking facilities. The town-planners have welcomed the property developers, approving their plans with a flick of the wrist, and promptly given Sandton commuters XXX-grade (very,very, very bad) roads networks.
A new 80-storey office block in Sandton City? The mind boggles.