Behind Sandton’s empty offices
The important commercial hub is feeling the pinch as buildings reflect companies’ downsizing trend and competition from other areas — as well as the effect of long-term development planning
It’s 4pm on a Thursday, and 10 people are kicking a ball around a football pitch in the business hub of Sandton. It’s not this that is unusual; it’s that they’re doing it on the roof of their building — the R4bn, 87,000m² Discovery head office. 1 Discovery Place is something of a wonder. More than 5,000 people work in the financial services group’s head office. Other than the rooftop football pitch (and running track), its state-of-the-art features include a gym, restaurants, bicycle storage facilities, and a parking system that directs drivers to vacant bays. It’s said to be so expansive that a Boeing 737 could be suspended in the west atrium of the building without touching sides. But the development of buildings such as this — arguably the most advanced office space in Africa — belies the parlous state of commercial property in Sandton. The business node is home to many of SA’s large corporates, including FirstRand, Investec, Growthpoint Properties and Sasol, as well as multinati...