FNB keeps its head office at One Simmonds Street
One of the side effects of having a growing middle class is that more people own cars. This was great news for financial institutions from a loans point of view, but FNB found that it created a different challenge at its Bank City premises in downtown Johannesburg: it ran out of parking.
Rather than heading north to Sandton as many other big corporates and finance institutions had, the bank decided to assert its confidence in the inner city by finding properties to buy that offered the necessary space to expand its premises.
Over a period of time, sites on seven surrounding city blocks were identified and purchased, with the intention of expanding office space as well as adding those all-important parking facilities.
Officially opened in 2011, the bank’s R460-million investment was a clear expression of confidence in the inner city of Johannesburg and in the country’s future.
Now providing office space for 7 800 of FNB’s 28 000 employees, Bank City offers the facilities that FNB needs to maintain its focus on technology, efficiency and innovation for its 6.5 million customers.
While the buildings are geared for maximum productivity and innovation, the architectural team balanced the hard structures with an urban green oasis at its heart. Landscaped with indigenous trees, fountains and an outdoor lounge, this area reminds high-flying executives and regular city workers that they are all equal before the city’s remarkable energy.
Designed as a collaborative effort between Design Scape, Ingenuitive Design Lab Architects and Green Inc, the area is a haven of peace in the heart of Africa’s economic hub, proving that you can enjoy a tranquil space amid the hustle and bustle of the CBD.
Soft and hard furnishings and a range of art and sculptures add further beauty to the tableau, connecting those weary of the city’s hard structures and pavements to a softer, more inviting environment.
Built entirely from locally sourced materials, many of them recycled or repurposed, the courtyard has been transformed into the green lung of the precinct. This feature forms the backdrop of many of the bank’s inner city marketing initiatives, and is also the centre of the annual Christmas lights display.
“FNB expressed its faith in the City of Johannesburg, and supported us in our vision of building a truly world class environment for work and play,” says Lebo Ramoreboli, deputy director: integrated regional economic development for the City of Johannesburg.
“We welcome the bank’s vision, and encourage other big corporates to return to the heart of the city. Our redevelopment and rejuvenation projects over the last 10 years have broadened its appeal, evolving from a place to which people only commuted during the day to a vibrant environment where they can live, work and play.”
Indeed, shortly after the FNB precinct was opened, Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau said that such private sector initiatives had created the inner city’s “Enclaves of Excellence”, through roof gardens, green buildings and special precincts that have in turn boosted the city’s image for prospective investors, and tourism.
According to Tau, they have contributed to attractive and safe urban spaces and created quality employment potential, technology and skills transfer, thus leading to a significant improvement in the quality of life of the people of Johannesburg.
The growing strength of financial services and increased pace of private investment flowing into Johannesburg, along with the greater co-operation among the City’s economic sector role-players — including local, provincial and national government — will enhance competitiveness and stimulate sustainable and balanced economic growth for the benefit of all.