THE first phase of the multibillion-rand Bay West Mall along the N2 in Port Elizabeth is just a few weeks from completion and construction is on track, developers said yesterday.
The R2-billion mall – the Eastern Cape's biggest private construction project – is the first phase of an estimated R12-billion development.
On completion the development is set to include office parks, residential nodes, private schools with associated sporting facilities, hotels, a hospital complex, a motor city, a light industrial precinct and a lifestyle centre.
Earthworks to prepare the site for construction, at the end of Walker Drive and adjacent to the N2 leading to Jeffreys Bay, began late last year and are on course to wrap up at the end of this month. The construction phase is set to be completed by the end of next year.
It was, however, not smooth sailing for sub-contractor Mawethu Civils, tasked to complete the earthworks phase of the project.
Director Chris Zoetmulder said when they arrived on site in October last year the area was completely waterlogged due to record winter rainfall.
"When we got here we could not move. It was completely and utterly saturated. We weren't expecting it to be so saturated," said Zoetmulder.
The project was then hit with another challenge late last month when strong winds fanned a bush fire from a Walker Drive townhouse development.
Site safety officer Tienus Bezuidenhout said the fire spread to the site and threatened to ignite costly equipment, including a R6-million rock crusher.
With the city's fire department already battling fires elsewhere, Bezuidenhout and environmental officer Marcelle Basson were forced to fight the flames themselves, first with water trucks used for the earthworks, then by beating the flames with fynbos.
Despite having to drain the waterlogged land and wait until last month to start on some of the centre's key areas, and then having to battle fires, Zoetmulder said they were on track.
Developers have also been very busy behind the scenes to ensure all deadlines and conditions are met.
Three months before heavy earth- moving equipment was allowed on site, Moorhouse Consulting was appointed to ensure all the environmental conditions, as stipulated by the Department of Environmental Affairs, were adhered to.
Basson was appointed as the environmental control officer for the project and has been on site permanently since August last year.
"Independent wildlife rescue specialist Mark Marshall and his team did a search and rescue of the fauna and flora on the site. During this time sensitive and conservation areas were also fenced," said Sherry Moorhouse of Moorhouse Consulting.
During the construction phase of the mall, more than 10000 jobs will be created – 3000 through direct employment and more than 7000 indirect jobs. About 1500 permanent jobs will be created on completion of the mall, which will have an 85000m² gross leasable area.
Bay West City managing director Gavin Blows said the mall was set to be completed near the end of next year.