October 26 2023
Cape Town’s CBD continues to draw a rich assortment of quality tenants with 3 116 of them operating in the city centre as of the end of 2022. Of these, retailers make up the largest portion, coming in at 1 243 entities doing business in the thriving inner city. This is according to research conducted by private-public partnership, the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID).
Next in the pecking order are professional services businesses who are an engine of the Central City economy and a machine which started humming once more in 2022 post-Covid. This was reflected in the CCID’s annual investment report, State of Cape Town Central City Report 2022 – A year in review (SCCR). which was released earlier this year.
Successful tenants drawn to strong city management
Retailers dominate in terms of the number of businesses in downtown Cape Town, but professional services continue to commit themselves to the country’s best-run central business district (CBD) because it offers the right ingredients for business success.
The SCCR showed that retail occupancy levels rose in all precincts across the CCID’s 1.6 km2 footprint in the Central City. People enjoy the destination establishments, including award-winning restaurants, top bars and clubs, and enticing coffee shops.
The city can be proud that an assortment of service providers including legal and accountancy firms as well as medical service providers is placing the Cape Town CBD firmly on their radar as the place to operate from and call home. The CCID, large landlords and the office of the Executive Mayor of Cape Town office are doing their part to make tenants’ stays comfortable among the 1 047 979 m2 of office space. These businesses believe in the CBD and want to maintain their presence there.
Legal eagles soar in the Cape Town CBD
With entrepreneurs, small tech businesses and other people embracing the CBD, they need support services. As a result, and with the Western Cape High Court also in the heart of the CBD, legal entities (comprising law firms and advocates’ chambers) rank first among businesses operating there.
The number of legal entities rose from 622 in 2020, to 655 in 2021, to 681 in 2022, according to the SCCR. The report is a key tool for local, national, and overseas investors, developers, and business owners, who want to work out where and how to deploy their capital in the economic engine of the Western Cape economy.
The likes of national firm Webber Wentzel and Bowmans are in the CBD, as are smaller boutique firms including property law specialist, Straughan Inc and matrimonial litigation specialists A Rudy & M Hans Attorneys.
In terms of the law firms, most of them focus on commercial law. There are also criminal, family and more specialised firms operating in the CBD. Madikizela Attorneys, for example, deals in litigation, family law, property and wills and estates.
Ronel Straughan, head of Straughan Inc, which specialises in property law, says she loves working in the inner city. “I left a very large CBD law firm after many years to start my own practice in 2015. My firm had an office in Rondebosch initially but, within a year I was back in what Capetonians call ‘town’, where I’d enjoyed working and could see being developed,” she says.
“I really like being here, in the old Mandela Rhodes building. We are on the corner of St Georges Mall and Wale Street, which is an excellent position for a law firm. We are close to the courts and the Master’s office and the deeds office are right here. It’s ideal for us,” she says.
The inner-city heritage buildings appeal to lawyers who want their offices to look elegant and impressive. Straughan says the City of Cape Town has kept many of Cape Town’s heritage buildings intact. Some tenants are proud to say they work out of offices which famously houses different financial and government institutions in the past.
While parking may be at a premium for visiting clients, the walkability and infrastructure that favours pedestrians is appealing. Lawyers and other professionals can enjoy staff lunches and drinks at the plethora of coffee shops, bars, and restaurants across the CBD.
The City is also encouraging people to use their own cars less often to ease traffic congestion, and Cape Town’s well-managed MyCiti bus service has 21 bus stops in the CBD alone.
Not only do law firms thrive in the inner city, but it hosts some of the best-rated advocates chambers in South Africa. As many as 221 advocates operate in the CCID’s defined inner-city area.
It’s clear that this array of legal service providers chooses to be in the CBD for numerous reasons. The companies and professionals have access to other professionals, young tech entrepreneurs and other businesses who are their clients. The CBD is a business networking hub which is well-run, standing strong in South Africa. Cape Town is a city with a functioning city centre which can be accessed easily from other such as the southern suburbs business district. The centre is improving because coordinated, talented, and hardworking people are behind it.
The CCID runs programs in the city which promote safety, the curbing of litter and the management of waste, improved mobility, and access to reliable power sources. The City is working to eliminate loadshedding and is promoting green energy use as Cape Town progresses.
Straughan says safety is taken very seriously by the City and CCID.
“It’s obvious that these groups care about safety given how they have trained and hired their own skilled security personnel. As Cape Town grows and people semigrate to work here, the authorities are working together to accommodate the expansion. We can see how different groups work together to make the growth manageable,” she says.
An assortment of other top-end tenants choose to operate in Cape Town CBD
The next most popular business type in the CBD is the medical practice. There are 246 medical practices, with the number having risen from 228 in 2021 and 224 in 2020, as indicated by the SCCR.
These include doctors’ rooms, medical suites, and plastic surgery theatres.
The fintech industry is also expanding its presence across the CBD. Cape Town is staking its claim as the capital of fintech innovation in Africa. Good infrastructure and a business enabling environment encourages fintech groups to choose the CBD. Cape Town is also becoming a startup hub and the home of a thriving Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector. In 2022, the central city was home to 78 information and communication technology (ICT) and telecoms entities. This includes 36 ICT entities, 11 telecom entities, and 31 BPO call centre entities.
The inner city also houses more than 92 architecture, engineering, and surveying practices. The SCCR showed the impressive growth in these specialised services from 76 in 2002, to 85 in 2021, to 92 in 2022. It also had 72 general corporations’ head offices in 2022, healthily up from 63 in 2021 and 58 in 2020.
Statistics confirm confidence in the CBD
The future of the CBD is bright as strong management draws more top-class tenants. The CCID’s latest Business Confidence Index for Q3 showed that despite the parlous state of the national economy amid power cuts and unemployment, Cape Town’s economy is tenacious. While just 51% of businesses surveyed indicated that they were satisfied with prevailing business conditions in quarter four of 2021 (the first time since the start of the pandemic in 2020), this percentage rose steadily throughout 2022, reaching a level of 83.3% by year-end.
Retailers, professional service providers, corporations, doctors, and all sorts of other businesses are drawn to the CBD of Cape Town and committed to its fruitful future. These groups play their role in ensuring things stay positive with the help of the CCID, the city of Cape Town and the Western Cape government.
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