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Cape Town CBD developer transforms offices into creative workspaces

Cape Town CBD developer transforms offices into creative workspaces

by Sharon Sorour-Morris
29 October 2021

In a bid to reimagine the office and offer office workers a more engaging space as they return to work, Cape Town CBD property developer Boxwood Property Fund is transforming its city centre buildings into bold, creative and engaging spaces.

First up is the R40 million rejuvenation of Cape Town CBD stalwart Picbel Parkade in Strand St – a multi-use building comprising 10 000 m² of office space, 5 000 m² of retail space and 882 parking bays – into The Felix.

The new name, says Catherine Bosman, asset manager at Boxwood Property Fund, is the first move in changing the way people use and experience the building.

“We decided it was time to move away from Picbel Parkade, a rather outdated name that refers to its use only as a public parking garage. As it was getting a new lease on life, we changed the name of the building to The Felix, which is a nod to the children’s comedy cartoon character Felix the Cat, and the fact that cats have nine lives …”


A five-storey atrium has been renovated into a recreational space for tenants of The Felix, formerly Picbel Parkade.

CREATIVE SPACE

The facades of the building have been spruced up, as have the lobbies and ablutions. But the stars of the show are two all-weather five-storey atriums allowing tenants to work in a different, creative space, or enjoy some downtime by socialising in a different venue.

Says Lyle van der Merwe, who does Boxwood’s Development Management and Leasing: “One of the atriums has been leased to one of our tenants for their exclusive use, with the remaining atrium open to employees of all the other tenants in the building. The thinking behind it is that people have realised that there is value in having more interactive spaces in an office building.”

Both are light-filled, welcoming recreational venues, each with a lively giant mural (of a tiger and a polar bear) done by Woodstock artists setting the tone. There is wooden seating with cushions, workstations, and a braai facility.

The redesign of the soon-to-be 4-star, Green-rated building, which was carried out by Ampersand Architects, also has offices ranging from 200 m² to 680 m² per wing with interleading passages, allowing for flexible use of the space.

Adding to the offering is a cool boxing gym, Sting Boxing Club, named after boxing champion Chomunorwa “Sting” Gonorenda, who trains at the facility.

REIMAGINING THE OFFICE

This bold, reimagining of the role of the office in creating not only a safe environment to which workers can return but also a productive and enjoyable one, is at the heart of Boxwood’s redevelopment philosophy.

CEO Rob Kane is the first to admit that it was time to rethink the configuration of the traditional pre-Covid-19 workspace. “Our view is that we need to create workspaces that can accommodate a different kind of interaction at work … so we are moving away from what a typical office looks and feels like, and what kind of facilities it might have offered to something that is designed more with workers’ needs in mind.”


A new retail offering called Salt by Boxwood is set to open in December.

NEW MARKET

This philosophy is also being applied to Boxwood’s flagship CBD building Atterbury House in Lower Burg St, which is now called The Box, currently undergoing a R50-million renovation. Apart from more conventional office space, The Box also offers smaller businesses flexible work arrangements in the form of The Box Office, a community space “to network and grow” with an all-inclusive rental with a rate-per-desk that includes shared reception, dedicated private office space for three or more people, uncapped high-speed WiFi, shared meeting rooms with video conferencing facility and a shared kitchen.

The ground floor is also being renovated, with an exciting retail offering, a new pavilion and landscaped public environment.

Set to open in December, the retail component - called Salt - has been conceived as a “food and beverage co-op”. Says Van der Merwe: “We set out to create a community-centred food and beverage offering in this part of town as there is nothing of the kind available. It will comprise 11 food pods, live music, big-screen TVs, and work stations with charging plugs and fast WiFi and will be open from 07h00 until late every day.”

REGENERATION OF PRECINCT

Kane is also in talks with commercial property landlords who own the buildings surrounding The Box and The Felix in a bid to create a livelier precinct that will be interesting and enticing for visitors and workers alike. Plans are afoot to enliven the urban space with public art and create interest on bland facades with murals.

Says Kane: “At Boxwood, we firmly believe in a Return to Work, and that people perform at their best when they’re working together where they can bounce ideas off one another, learn the company culture, collaborate on assignments, and create a team spirit. But we realised that we needed to rethink our offering to encourage our tenants to come back to work.”

So far, so good.

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IMAGES: Boxwood Property, CCID

Tags: Boxwood Property Fund Rob Kane The Felix Picbel Parkade