Banks troop out of Harare’s CBD

Chihota said the provision of water, power and refuse removal had increasingly become the duty of tenants in the CBD.

SEVERAL banks have trooped out of Harare’s central business district (CBD) to establish headquarters in the affluent suburb of Borrowdale, escaping overcrowding and traffic congestion, according to reports by property experts.

“The Harare CBD is in transition from all in one financial, political and commercial centre to a city premised on increasingly informalised retail and a transport hub," South Africa regional property consultant Kura Chihota said in an analysis.

"The city council relaxed zoning requirements and allowed commercial uses in neighbouring suburbs of Milton Park, Alexander Park, Eastlea and Belgravia to name some. Smaller corporates and individuals chose to buy and convert existing houses to commercial uses,” he said.

“The stand sizes are somewhat restrictive and users of larger space needed to look elsewhere.”

Chihota said the provision of water, power and refuse removal had increasingly become the duty of tenants in the CBD.

This was because the municipality has been struggling to provide the services.

Congestion has been compounded by the influx of cheap ex-Japanese vehicles in Harare’s CBD, many of which are being used as public transport.

In his report titled Banking on Borrowdale – A commentary, Chihota listed several banks including Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe, NMB, First Capital, and Ecobank among those that have moved, or are contemplating to relocate.

According to Chihota’s report, Stanbic is building a 7 600 sqm headquarters near the Borrowdale Race Course which, when ready, will allow the bank to exit Harare’s CBD.

NMB’s head office along Borrowdale Road sits on a 3 700 sqm piece of land.

“A stalwart of First Street in the Harare CBD, the original Barclays Bank will develop a new suite of offices as First Capital Bank. The site acquired is larger than immediate requirements and the balance of the land remains an investment option for future expansion and or development,” Chihota said.

“Ecobank, currently occupying units in the office park adjacent to Sam Levy Village, will move across the road to a development underway, literally across the road, on the corner of Piers and Borrowdale Lane.”

Investors have also been attracted by low traffic in suburban areas, which is providing a new clientele target for the banks.

“Banks are following their clientele out of CBD. Stanbic now occupies a house in Belgravia, AFC Holdings just opened in Westgate. We have on the market instructions from two other banks looking for properties to occupy south of Samora (Machel Avenue). Borrowdale is quite the ideal place,” Property expert Washington Musiiwa said.

“The reasons for moving are varied, and we get to hear from the banks when they come onto the market. CBD has become generally unfashionable, due to crowds and parking space.”

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