A grand old lady on Durban’s commercial property landscape, the former Lion Match factory in Umgeni Road is getting a face-lift and will be relaunched as an exciting office park by the end of the year.

Grant Smith, the development director of property development and construction group, JT Ross, which bought the factory 12 years ago when Lion Match moved to Gauteng,  said the refurbishment would create
17 000mof office space and offer the critical mass to include nice-to-haves such as a coffee shop, outside eating areas and on-site medical and health facilities.  In addition, JT Ross is building a three-storey parking garage.

Smith said that additional office space would be in the signature factory building as well as in refurbished warehouses on the property.  Until now, the property has had “an office dimension”, but many tenants have occupied the adjoining, extensive warehouses.  Now, he said two warehouses would be demolished and another four refurbished.

The remodelling includes the replacement of windows and the installation of modern-day technology such as energy-saving lighting and air conditioning.  The air conditioning sector regards this development as a landmark in the evolution of green building technologies.  It will have the largest “ice farm” in Durban, creating large blocks of ice in off-peak periods, which will be used to cool the air during the day.  The state-of-the-art system will be integrated with the existing air conditioning plant.

The main building will acquire a small roof garden with two courtyards, indigenous landscaping and a tree-lined entrance will extend the sporting green belt that includes the Durban Country Club, equestrian and adjoining sports fields, as well as the Moses Mabhida Stadium and the Kings Park Stadium into the Umgeni Road environs.

“This isn’t inner city rejuvenation, so I suppose you could call it “city fringe rejuvenation.”  This is a massive address metrowise and we are going all out to capitalise  on that,” Smith points out.

On the purely practical side, he says that the office park is perfectly situated for access to arterial routes out of the city and is also located on the central public transport spine from the CBD to Bridge City in the north.

“We are going to create something special in an affordable price range – something top drawer with a hip, funky feel,” he says, adding that it would be the ideal location for businesses that no longer felt that premises in the city centre or the Berea were suitable but needed to be centrally located.

The new office park has not yet been taken to market, but already, more than 7 000mof the overall space is already spoken for as existing tenants will remain.

Smith said the office park was expected to go to market during the month.  He envisages completing the first phase of the refurbishment by the end of the year, with a second phase ready for occupation by the middle of next year.