SOMETHINGels Holiday Inn is the business
FOR THE FIRST TIME Sandton has the look and feel of a proper financial district in a world city. There were just too many open spaces and trees before: Sandton circa 2000 looked like a big suburban office park that happened to have a stock exchange. There simply weren’t enough tall buildings. Any business capital worth its salt is in shadows most of the time and is 90% concrete and glass. Facebrick is a definite no-no and Sandton central still has some left. Ugh. A financial mile with a microclimate – even as tempestuous as it currently is in The City (London) and Wall Street (New York) – is the ultimate sign of having arrived, and Sandton is hot and bothered right now.
When Absa canned the idea of constructing the highest tower on the highest hill in Sandton – which would have dwarfed Rand Merchant Bank’s Eighties neo-classical, neon-edged Lego block that led the Jo’burg downtown exodus and is still the highest point in the district – it seemed as if Sandton Central would always be a node. Just a business node.
And 24Central, the collection of restaurants and a nightclub now occupying the original site of Absa’s abandoned tower project, is a necessary part of any place of business (although clinching a mega-merger in a News Café seems slightly banal). But a dominating block (I was imagining something akin to one of the New York WTC constructions, no less) would have really given Sandton presence.
So it’s fallen on the new hotels to give Sandton Central a sense of being a place of high finance. Who’d have thunk a Holiday Inn of all things would be the erection that finally puts Sandton Central on par with a Gangnam or a Sródmiescie? Opened last month, the new Holiday Inn isn’t the same as those frequented by your parents. Its palatial lobby and massive fireplace that welcome you already makes that clear. The cherrywood-finished (fake or not) businessorientated rooms (no bath) drive it home.
Back in the days when South African families still had hotel holidays – not chalets, self-catering cottages or campsite Decembers – Holiday Inns were the place to be. You could pack a family of six in a double room when double still meant what it said and a game of 20c Asteroids in the lobby was the height of the entertainment offered.
The Sandton Holiday Inn is a different story altogether. A rooftop swimming pool and the best bird’s eye view of Sandton open to the public (too bad the 33rd floor of the Michelangelo Towers is a private spot and Sandton City becomes more dungeonlike with every visit) would have been enough, but its top floor Sky Bar (why has it taken so long for Sandton to get something de rigeur in any modern city?) seals the deal. From the bar, visitors can be entertained by a lightning show – as we were on the night – surely unparalleled in the world.
The developers are still considering their options on what to do with the rest of the top floor. The space has balconies all around, so the smell of oncoming Highveld storms can mix with that of the cigars and cognac on offer, and the decor is Victorian Library meets Afro Minimalist (yet it works). Whether it’s turned into an after-work drinking spot or fine dining establishment would hardly make a difference. People would flock there.
Sense of high finance.
FRIK ELS firstname.lastname@example.org