The Cape Health Innovation Campus – an inventive medical gateway to Woodstock

Property Wheel caught up with Dave Linder, CEO of Castle Group to discuss their state-of-the-art health-tech and business start-up development, the Cape Health Innovation Campus.

Their “little project in Woodstock” is a unique, collaborative
initiative between the research-based Centre for Proteomic and Genomic Research
(CPGR) and Artisan Biomed to create an innovative ecosystem that will anchor
co-location and synergy between big players in the bio and health tech space.

Construction began on the 6000m2 development in March 2020 but the developers experienced Covid-19 delays. The handover is scheduled for May 2021.

Some would say that Cape Town’s CBD would have been the
obvious choice for this type of project. What attracted you to Woodstock?

Our focus has always been on Woodstock and its surrounding suburbs
including Salt River and Observatory. Woodstock’s proximity to Cape Town’s CBD
and the arterial roads is in its favour and we really believe these areas are
the future of Cape Town.

We bought this property a few years ago and we saw this
opportunity through the tenant who was occupying a fairly significant chunk of
the building. 

I bought my first building in Sir Lowry Road in 1999. At the
time, Woodstock Upper was the topic of discussion and it was supposed to go
through an industrial revolution of sorts. Twenty-one years later, it has taken
a long time to gain traction. There are pockets of areas that have done well
but there are also pockets that need to be redone properly so that it is a
completely revamped suburb close to Cape Town’s CBD. Woodstock also went
through a period where security became a problem but with Cape Town City
Improvement District (CCID) involved, they have managed to eliminate a lot of
this.

Woodstock is perceived to be ‘edgy’ and it is not corporate.
Although some of our tenants are professors and doctors, we believe that this
is what is attractive to them.

What exciting amenities can we expect to see?

We have witnessed a huge amount of interest in this building
and we believe that Covid-19 has intensified the interest in our project. Our tenants
have realized the opportunities that can arise from the sudden honed focus on
health.  

We have emphasized on the industrial nature of Woodstock out
of respect for the area. Woodstock has gone from historic ‘clothing factories’
in the 1970’s – 1980’s to call centres and bio-artisanal type businesses. We
wanted to bring an element of steel into the design by using cladding steel and
internally, using steel columns and grids with a combination of ceilings with
open corridors – very industrial looking but married with high-tech facilities.

We are creating a co-working environment with an emphasis on
a co-laboratory environment. Laboratory equipment is incredibly expensive, prohibiting
access to many. Our idea is to make these services accessible to students and
researchers at a reasonable fee. Like a boardroom that is often underutilized,
we can sweat these assets by making them more accessible to third parties.
Allied to this, there will be a co-working scenario with hot desking and small
office environments.

We have also created a central atrium throughout the
building which will assist with the energy control and allow light to permeate
through the building from the sixth floor to the ground floor. Each floor will
circulate via the atrium. This will create a sense of movement. There will be a
lot of glass too. Visitors who walk through the building may not be able to
access the laboratories, but they will be able to view it all. We are hoping
that this will be quite stimulating, exciting and of interest.

An artist’s render of the central atrium.

The ground floor will play host to a coffee shop and a
co-working space.

The building will be energy efficient – from the type of
windows to the type of insulation used in the electrical supplies. With the
current situation that Eskom is facing – and no foreseeable changes – there
will be a mixture of solar generators and Eskom-generated supply.

It also comes down to your tenant mix and creating a
community within a building. The larger tenants will set the foundation by
providing the laboratory equipment and providing their suppliers with the
opportunity to showcase their equipment while saving on showroom space. There
will be a combination of medically inclined and research focused tenants who
will add value and contribute the building and its purpose. 

Factoring in the national lockdown, how has the
development been affected and what challenges have you faced?

We started on site in September last year. We elected not to
demolish the building but to re-enforce the foundation work and to add on three
floors. When Covid-19 hit, we had to close the entire site down. We returned to
site when the lockdown was downgraded to Level 3.

However, our biggest challenges were not because of the
pandemic; it was due to delays from Council. I believe that the whole planning
process and the time in which approval takes is unacceptable. We do international
work; what takes the Council in Portugal two months, takes our Council a year
to do. It can be done and the whole process requires an overhaul. Many
developers cannot start on their projects, the City of Cape Town is not
receiving money, there are increased rates revenue and we are unable to unlock
job creation. As an industry, it is something that we need to hold them
accountable for. It just keeps diluting over time.

Due to the uptake in demand for this type of space, we
require extra bulk and we have subsequently had to apply for additional rights
for an extra floor which we are awaiting Council’s approval.

What has your approach been to this project and what do
you envision long-term?

As landlords, we need tenants. We work closely with our
tenants and we match them with a building or, we match them with other tenants
to create a synergy within a building. By creating synergy and a vision, it
becomes positive and inclusive, unlocking further opportunities for everyone.
We see our tenants as stakeholders within an industry collaborating.

We understand their businesses and we offer our tenants a
wide suite of options. This is what differentiates us from the rest of the
market. We are signing leases and there are not many landlords who are not
currently haemorrhaging.

We will end up with a great facility, on the edge of Cape Town’s CBD and off the highway with accessibility to the N1 – the gateway to Woodstock.

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Source: Propertywheel.co.za | https://propertywheel.co.za/2020/10/the-cape-health-innovation-campus-an-inventive-medical-gateway-to-woodstock/

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