Tag Archives: V&A Waterfront

Solar makes cents, and Boschendal becomes a significant producer

About two years ago, the V&A Waterfront commissioned 4,207 solar panels (7,000m²) installed on the roofs of the main Waterfront buildings, with a total electrical output of 1,093.8 kWp at a cost of R20 million.  It conserves about 1,721,956 kWh annually, significantly reducing the Waterfront’s environmental footprint.  At the same time, Boschendal commissioned its first, small rooftop solar installation at the Rachelsfontein complex.

Then in October 2017, Robben Island launched its R25 million, 666kWp solar farm supported by 828 kWh battery storage, to reduce reliance of diesel which was shipped in for the island’s generators.  Just based on the cost of fuel savings, the Robben Island installation will pay for itself within five years.  The micro-grid on Robben Island is the largest combined solar and lithium-ion storage micro-grid system in South Africa.

Boschendal solar farm

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When last did you feel really proud about something?

Feeling inordinately proud about something isn’t an everyday occurrence.  And when it does happen, it is cause for reflection.  For me, that happened last Thursday when I went into the V&A Waterfront company’s offices to meet CEO David Green.  It was my first visit into the offices in 15 years although I had popped into the reception several times over the years to say hello to the still-familiar faces.

I’d watched the Waterfront just get better and better since David Green became CEO — the obviously-evident fine-tuning — but it was the opening of the Watershed and the start of the MOCAA Gallery in the Silo Precinct that took my breath away.

When I saw Dave Jack, the Waterfront’s first MD, a few months ago, he asked if I had met David Green — “a true professional” — and when I said I hadn’t, he was insistent that he set up a meeting so I could interview him.  I called Dave about setting up the interview when I knew I was going to be in town, and got through to him in Berlin!  So I arranged the interview myself.  It was surprisingly easy.

V&A Waterfront head office

The V&A Waterfront company’s head office

I really didn’t know what to expect of David Green or the Waterfront company 15 years on.  So entering their new offices in the BP building certainly set the scene.

Sometimes one needs distance in order to see things more clearly… so where do I start?

I don’t think anybody could have anticipated that the V&A Waterfront company would be what and where it is today.  After 40 minutes with David Green, I could only think of something I’ve said once before — Cape Town doesn’t know how fortunate it is to have him in Cape Town.  (The last person I said that of is Dirk Elzinga — the first CEO of the Cape Town International Convention Centre.)

David Green has nurtured a new corporate culture at the Waterfront company.  It is a winning culture.  When it comes to responsible and sustainable tourism and property development, they are in a league of their own.

In 1994 I interviewed the late James Rouse, the father of the modern shopping mall, festival marketplaces and revitalised waterfronts (he developed over 30 worldwide), and a renowned philanthropist.  He told me that Cape Town’s Waterfront would go on to become the best in the world, and he was saddened that he couldn’t have played a role because of the sanctions against SA at the time.  Well, the V&A Waterfront company is determined to make it the best in world… and that’s not an idle boast.

V&A Waterfront 25th Anniversary book

V&A Waterfront 25th Anniversary book

I will be writing much more about David Green and V&AW elsewhere.  I was truly honoured by the 25th anniversary book he gave me.  I was delighted to meet Colin Devenish, Operations & Sustainability Executive — whose expertise is a far cry from V&AW’s early days — and Carla White, PR & Communications Manager (and yes Carla, I am actually reading every word in that book).  And seeing Tabita Viljoen again was something really special.  She was Derick van der Merwe’s PA when he was financial director and later as MD.  She held things together during the messy changes and, I’m sure, must be an invaluable PA to David Green.  She is one of the stalwarts, if not the stalwart, and her institutional knowledge is invaluable.

For me, the Waterfront started in 1979, ten years before development started, when I was asked to join the Minister of Sport’s Waterfront Steering Committee.  Yachting was, or was soon to be, one of the few sports SA could compete in internationally.  And the Cape to Rio yacht race needed a home base.  Proposals polarised Cape Town, with architect Gawie Fagan proposing restoration of the historic precinct around the Victoria & Alfred Basins, while Louis Karol focused on the Granger bay area.  My first battle was to get them on the same side saying, “Hey guys, it’s not either or, we want both!”

David Jack was already involved then but others who put in a lot of effort included Judge Louis Winsen, committee chairman, Prof Deon Retief and Muller Coetzee.  Louis had to present the objections to a Waterfront to Gerrit Viljoen, sports minister, and one of the sharpest minds I’ve ever come across.  When Louis outlined the vociferous objections from the chairwoman of the Somerset Hospital Board — that the waterfront would bring prostitution, vagrancy and drugs to the area — Viljoen clicked his fingers and snapped back, “Will it be drugs from the sailors to the nurses or nurses to the sailors?

In 1985, the waterfront was at the bottom of government’s agenda so I organised the Pierhead Festival which gained large-scale public access to the docks for the first time since the Suez Crisis of the 1960s.  Sol Kreiner was the mayor at the time and he helped sneak the permissions through SA Railways & Harbours.  We wanted to show Capetonians what a great place it really was.  It was a huge success — so huge in fact that it was blamed for the less-than-stellar performance of the rest of the Cape Town Festival which ran at the same time.  The entire cabinet had lunch there on one or other of the days.

I had asked Harold Gorvy, senior partner of Arthur Andersen and director on many boards (including Pick n Pay, who I needed as a participant) to chair my festival committee.  He became so enthused by the opportunities that he told me to set up meetings with the Ministers of Tourism and Transport, which I did.  We left with an undertaking that they would collaborate to investigate opening the harbour for development.  The Burggraaf Committee was announced shortly after and Arie Burggraaf and I became good friends.

The formation of the V&A Waterfront company was announced on Thanksgiving Day 1988, at a function many would rather forget.  The agency handling the audio-visual presentation messed up completely.  The function started 1½ hours late and the AV still kept breaking down until chairman Brian Kantor took to the stage and told them to pack up and go home.

I moved into Dock House in May 1989 as builder Yusuf Arendse was clearing the derelict building of pigeons (and mountains of guano) making it habitable as the head office of the V&A Waterfront company.  The Waterfront’s staff and management at the time comprised David Jack and Duncan Cloete, their secretaries and a tea lady/cleaner.

On a really sad note, I bumped into Hendrik Schoeman browsing around the Waterfront late in 1994.  As transport minister in 1985, he had started everything happening, .  He was pleased to see me but seemed very depressed and said, “You know, no-one will ever remember the role we played in making this happen.”  Not long after, I heard that he had committed suicide on his farm in Limpopo.  What makes this even more sad is that John Wiley, the tourism minister I had dealt with, had committed suicide prior to this.  So this is my tribute to both of them.

If they are looking down on what is unfolding at Cape Town’s old docks, I’m sure they will feel the same pride that I have.  And they will also be happy to know it is in such good hands.

Tourism will never be Helen Zille’s game-changer until there are lots of changes

It’s been an interesting first few days of travels, and one realises how much observations and thoughts are always formed by the experiences that went before.

What I observed in Montagu, my first stop, raised a red flag that was re-inforced throughout the Robertson Wine Valley.  The urgent imperative in SA today is to create meaningful jobs, empower people and give them new skills that will be a doorway to upwards mobility.

The point of the Khulisa “game-changers” programme that MEC Alan Winde has initiated, and that Wesgro is leading, is to identify the changes that can lead to considerable increases in the growth of the tourism industry, and especially the jobs it creates.

Driving between towns – Montagu, Ashton, Robertson, Barrydale and McGregor — gives one lots of time to think.  And I realised that none of these are in fact ‘tourist towns’.  They rely on the attractions of some wine farms (those that are open all weekend) and activities in the mountains and rivers.  Yes, people do go just to chill out, but they’ll stay in a place longer with something more that appeals.  I discovered that many weekenders leave the towns of the Robertson Wine Valley early enough on Sunday to head back to Cape Town via Franschhoek, where there are more places open to have fun and spend their money.  The towns and people in the Langeberg municipality lose out.

Is tourism in Montagu, for example, creating significant numbers of new jobs — more jobs than it did two years ago — in numbers that can be called game-changing numbers?  I don’t think so.  Because my new benchmark for ‘tourism towns’ is the amount of “buzz” there is on the main street.  How many shops — especially coffee shops — are still open on Saturday afternoons and Sundays, when most tourists visit?

Accommodation is not the tourism industry; it’s only a small part of that industry.  Only about a third of accommodation establishments are professionally-run businesses and the balance primarily support a lifestyle for the owners.  I’ll never forget a chairperson of a Local Tourism Office (LTO) telling me the only reason she opened an accommodation establishment was for the tax breaks it offered, with a bonus of meeting interesting people.  Most tourism organisations exist to promote and support these vested interests.

Attractions and activities are at the very core of tourism.  And they probably create – or could create — many more jobs than accommodation establishments do.  But are they open when tourists and travellers want to visit?  The majority of Robertson Wine Valley’s estates, hospitality and retail operations are closed from Saturday afternoon for the rest of the weekend.  Have these towns embraced a tourism ethic?  Do they give tourists what they really want?  I don’t think so.

A Real Game-changer — extended trading hours
And then I thought about the implications of extended trading hours, for more days of the week.  That means more staff and maybe even shifts.  Asking around showed that 25% in new work opportunities is a reasonable figure.

So imagine the extra impact: a possible increase in new jobs of 25% in retail and hospitality sectors with no expenditure on infrastructure?

It was Gert Lubbe of Montagu Country Hotel who pressurised Van Loveren Estate into opening seven days a week.  And they should be forever in debt to him – the turnover on the farm increased by 100% (from an already high base) by not closing at 12:30pm on Saturdays and staying open on Sundays.  And why was Van Loveren so successful?  When it comes to meeting the needs of the market, they are dedicated and utterly professional.  (Big kudos to Bonita Malherbe, their marketing manager.)

Small businesses in the attractions and activities sector have the ability to generate far more jobs than the accommodation sector because they outsource more; they rely on others in the community to fill the gaps they need filled to make their businesses work.  They are the real engine of entrepreneurship.  (And I’m starting to accumulate a number of case studies to prove this.)

Few tourism organisations have the ability to implement this because they basically serve only their own interests, and look to municipalities to increase funding of vested interests and the status quo.  How many local tourism offices have a game-changing plan?  But then, equally, how many municipalities have the first inkling on how to really drive tourism?

When the V&A Waterfront started, it heralded the start of extended trading hours for seven days a week for the first time in SA.  Tenants didn’t like it and it was tough on them.  When Victoria Wharf opened, it had the highest number of owner/operators of any major mall, and most succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.  And it established the Waterfront as the brightest destination on the African continent — no-one would ever think of going back to the old ways.

What Provincial authorities can do is to establish the hospitality (for all in service industries) training centres similar to those that were established in Kenya and Malawi with enormous success.   People in service industries need to be confident, engaging and understand the need for hard work.  Our tourism industry must be able to deliver world-class service especially if we are going to be successful with the growing Eastern markets, where service is “deeply ingrained in their culture.  It is a sacred duty.” ¹

Isn’t it time to start categorising towns?
If the towns I visited are not really ‘tourist towns’ what are they?

Maybe we should be categorising towns as Heritage towns, Getaway towns and Tourist towns?  And some towns, like Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, could be categorised as all three?  And some towns might only be classified as Business towns – many towns in SA have little attraction and exist primarily to serve mines, industry and as administrative centres.

Some towns don’t want to be, or cannot be, ‘tourist towns’ and tourism promotion is only geared to protecting the vested interests with no real emphasis on creating new jobs.  In McGregor, someone told me they don’t like tourists because they bath too often (rather than shower) and the village runs out of water.  Maybe that was an exaggeration or said in jest, but it portrays an attitude I have encountered before.  Over a dinner in Stanford about two years ago, one of the guests said she didn’t want to village to change at all because the only reason that she had moved there was because of its “sleepy hollow” character.  Can we afford to be that selfish given the inequalities in South Africa?  Can we ignore the real needs in our poorer communities?

Are Municipalities the dog in the manger?
Municipalities need to get clued up.  They need to focus on creating people-friendly spaces and environments, and thinking like shopping centre managers think – about driving the triple bottom line.    They might need creative new municipal bylaws but will definitely have to work in a different way with developers to get more civic and tourism benefit from new developments.  They – representing the public interest – need to decide on their place in the greater scheme of tourism and get the majority of businesses to buy into this.

Should LTOs receive funding to promote vested interests?  Or should they only receive funding from the public purse if they have a strategy to become a real ‘tourist town’?  This needs clear guidelines but the most important is the creation of tourist streets or tourism precincts that are open seven days a week, or at least when most tourists want to visit.

Do municipalities have the skills to tackle this when it’s an engineering mindset that dominates most decisions?  I don’t think so.  Maybe this is where Provincial authorities and organisations like Wesgro need to develop these skills so they can work with the municipalities.

Not every town can be — or wants to be — a Stellenbosch or Franschhoek.  Every town needs to find a realistic place in the scheme of things, but it’s the tourist towns and towns that commit to become tourist towns — with specific and significant job creation targets — that should receive the bulk of all tourism funding.  Towns need game-changing action plans.  There need to be key performance indicators that are measured.

Langeberg Municipality seems to be clueless when it comes to tourism, but it’s not clear whether the malaise lies in the political leadership or the management.  I’d like to know how many people they’ve approached for the tourism job at the Municipality (it’s been several) … and why they’ve never been successful in filling the position.  Are they frightened of someone who will rock the boat?  I was told several times while in the Valley that if you cross the Municipality, you just get closed out.

They are now going to be severely challenged to come up with their game-changing plan to maximise the opportunities of tourism.

So… this is no carefully-crafted strategy or set of proposals, but rather a lot of questions which need to be debated.  So please join the debate!

¹ Interview with Simon Anholt

The best ‘good news’ story from the Winelands?

The two best ‘good news’ stories from the Western Cape are probably the V&A Waterfront and Boschendal Wine Estate.  Both were sold about a decade back — the Waterfront to foreign owners who expatriated the profits but stopped all new development and Boschendal to a local BEE consortium who made their money from property development on the Estate while neglecting the farm and its national heritage.

Under new local owners, the Waterfront has been rejuvenated and the new Watershed alongside the dry dock is one of the most apt legacy projects of Cape Town’s year as World Design Capital in 2014.  At Boschendal, it’s all happened much more recently since the property was sold to a foreign buyer, and the focus there has been on the farm and maximising the public attraction and benefit of the historic areas of this iconic estate.

Boschendal - the Farm

I first got an inkling of the transformation at Boschendal when Andre Lambrechts, the farm manager, took me on a quick tour of the Estate — see Boschendal Reborn — and even the cows have happy lines.  So who is driving this remarkable transformation?

Rob Lundie, CEO Boschendal

Rob Lundie is Boschendal’s MD. His strengths are knowing what’s good and what’s bad, and what makes a development successful.  He also knows how to pick a professional team that will exceed expectations.

Rob comes from a farm in the KZN Midlands but his professional experience lies in property investment and development — he managed an international property fund in Majorca before coming to Boschendal.  There, he focused on high quality, long term investments primarily in Europe.  “I’m not a hospitality expert,” he says, “but I’ve owned retail and restaurants and I know what’s good and what’s bad.  I know what makes a development successful.”

One of his partners, representing family interests, wanted to buy Boschendal and asked Rob to help structure the contract.  When the deal was done he asked Rob, “Would you like to see what you helped us buy?”  And the allure of Boschendal started working on Rob.  So in December 2013, Rob and his wife spent two nights at Rhodes Cottage and he prepared a simple, one-page business plan, which he describes as “opening the shutters.”

When Graham Johnson, Boschendal’s then MD, decided to move on, Rob’s partners in Majorca gave him leave and the business plan unfolded from there.  He started at Boschendal last July.  An enormous amount has been achieved in a very short time.

After eight years of promises not kept under the previous owners, the new family owners insisted that there must be delivery before talk.  What Rob found was a team of people with a genuine love for the farm and the valley — some had been on the farm for 25 years and “just needed permission to think and act.  It’s that team that generated the energy and there has been a buy-in into a new ethic.  In the past, there was no long-term vision.  Boschendal has a matriarchal role in the Valley which is starting to be realised again.”

“An exclusive experience to an inclusive audience”
One of the first things to be addressed was bringing the various components of the farm and the brand back into the Boschendal company, and maximising the farm’s cover crops because this is at the heart of what Boschendal is all about.

The Werf — the historic Manor House and the buildings around it — is the focus of the public experience and that has received a make-over.  The flagship restaurant — The Werf — opens mid-March with renowned chef Christiaan Campbell at the helm.  Le Pique Nique — the picnic venue that started them all — is becoming popular again and the delightful Farmshop & Deli is open every day of the week, from 8am to 9pm.  This is a family-friendly destination serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner with tables both in the cosy restaurant and scattered under the oak trees. The Farmshop & Deli also stocks a range of products including Boschendal’s own pasture-reared Angus Beef, fresh farm bread, artisanal jams, home-made preserves and local olive oils.

The focus is on providing flavourful and nourishing farm-to-table food; celebrating the produce of Boschendal and the Franschhoek valley with menus that shift with the seasons. Much of the fresh produce is grown right on the Farm and, where possible, other ingredients are sourced from farms and small producers in the surrounding winelands.  Transport is kept to a minimum: three-quarters of the ingredients are sourced within 30-kilometres of the farm.

The historic Rhodes Cottage (left) sleeps 6 in the cottage and 4 in the Garden Annexe.  The Orchard Cottages (right) offers stylish simplicity with a rural yet contemporary character.  The atmosphere is carefree and relaxed making the cottages ideal for families or groups of friends.

The historic Rhodes Cottage (left) sleeps 6 in the cottage and 4 in the Garden Annexe. The Orchard Cottages (right) offers stylish simplicity with a rural yet contemporary character. The atmosphere is carefree and relaxed making the cottages ideal for families or groups of friends.

Former labourers cottages have been converted to luxury guest accommodation, ranging from Clarence Cottage (a two-bedroomed cottage situated close to the historic werf), The Werf Cottages (adjacent to the historic werf) and The Orchard Cottages (family-friendly farm cottages with shared swimming pool and large gardens).  And then there’s the historical Herbert Baker designed Rhodes Cottage which comes with its own housekeeper.

Only one new building has been built — the Olive Press, a conferencing & wedding venue, which hosted the Cape Wine Auction as its first function when R10.5 million was raised for education in the Winelands.

Rob emphasises that “there is a big obligation to community upliftment and there has to be a social impact from investment.”  Projects are in the ideas stage and one focuses on honey.  The Farm could encourage staff to keep backyard beehives and assist them with funding to get this going.  One family might keep 10 hives but a community venture becomes a business with a reasonable scale.  Boschendal could lend its brand/name for the honey produced by the community.

(A big hurrah for that!  The honey sold in supermarkets by neighbouring Rhodes Food Group and many others is labelled as “Made in China”.)

Work has started on a new vegetable garden right opposite the new restaurant as part of the commitment to its quality dining experience.  While the chef reckons the 4-5 kitchens on the estate will use 3–5 tonnes of fresh produce a month, there will be opportunities for farm workers to supplement the seasonal needs of the restaurants.  This could see excess production being marketing under a community Boschendal brand.  Maybe we’ll see that in Woolies soon?

Two new hiking trails have been developed on the mountain slopes which provide an added reason for visiting.  (These will be published on CapeInfo shortly.)

Sustainable energy is another consideration but one that takes longer to implement.  Solar power is planned and an Environmental Impact assessment has been done for hydroelectric power in the mountains.  And there’s more to come.

Rob says that “his first 18 months will address getting the foundations right, but that it’s going to take much longer to reach the end idea.”  And fine-tuning of the first steps has already started.

Rob Lundie is a real asset to the Western Cape and, if we can keep him here longer (which his kids are hoping for,) there’s little doubt that his wider impact in the region will be significant.

The Rose Garden at Boschendal

The Rose Garden at Boschendal