Durban officials have a plan to restore the inner City to its former glory and attract businesses and economic growth back to the area.
Acting Deputy City Manager for Economic Development and Planning Musa Mbhele presented the City’s Inner City Local Area Plan, Regeneration Strategy and Benchmarking Tour to the Executive Committee. The Plan for Durban includes a major upgrade, which will see the reclamation of abandoned buildings and urban spaces in areas such as Albert Park, the CBD and Victoria Embankment.
He said the Development, Planning and Management Unit had been working on the Master Plan to rejuvenate the inner City for the past few months.
Mbhele outlined the inner city challenges which included crime and grime, abandoned and invaded buildings, migration of businesses out of the area, traffic congestion, informal traders and road safety especially for pedestrians.
The focus of the regeneration strategy is conducting a situational analysis, based on the existing work, redefining the role of the Durban CBD in relation to the port interface, urban growth and regeneration as well developing a vision with broad strategic policies.
Other areas of focus include identifying short, medium and long term development goals as well as developing Land Use Framework and identifying associated infrastructure.
Introducing building controls and By-Laws and enforcing compliance with the building control regulations is another area of focus.
The Problem Building By-Law 2015, which was adopted by Council on 24 June 2015 and recently passed and accepted as law is one way of addressing this issue.
The By-Law targets “problem buildings” which have been invaded, abandoned or leased out as slums.
Focus of the strategy will be done in phases. The first is producing an inception report taking into account stakeholder mapping, the budget, the programme and appointing a consultant team.
The second phase is the Local Area Plan and high level precinct plans.
This will include preparation, workshops and drafting and reviewing plans.
Phase three of the regeneration plan includes listing existing and new projects, conducting an assessment against the Local Area Plan and precinct plans, infrastructure and traffic implications, project business case for a few selected projects and looking at funding potential.
The three areas to be targeted first are Warwick, Centrum site and the Point which would have a catalytic effect on surrounding areas.
Mbhele also mentioned a benchmarking exercise undertaken in Australia in June to learn best practices to rejuvenate eThekwini’s inner city.
The team visited six cities namely Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Cairns, Sydney and Gold Coast.
The reason for the visit was that some of these cities reflect similarities to Durban and each had something unique for Durban to learn from.
While they experienced challenges they had a number of positive developments Durban could learn from including master planning the way Sydney achieved its vision. The master planning process identified catalysts tourism and waterfront development in critical locations for the Sydney Opera House, Darling Harbour and Pyrmont Waterfronts.
The integration of the major sporting precinct with the City in Adelaide was noted. There the sporting precincts were successfully integrated with the City Centre through the green belt. The public spaces were also used to connect events at the stadium. The stadiums in Adelaide and Melbourne were used for multiple sporting codes which ensured 100% occupation.
Recommendations from the benchmarking visit include undertaking a feasibility studies on connecting the Umgeni River and the sea up to the harbour mouth for the use of ferries, introducing light rail system in the inner City connecting the Airport with the Durban Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre and developing precinct plans for waterfronts.
A website will soon be up and running, solely dedicated to this project. There will also be a platform for residents to give their opinion on what they want Durban to be as they are a vital stakeholder to the City.
The presentation was welcomed by the Executive Committee who praised the Development, Planning and Management Unit’s efforts to rejuvenate the inner City.
EThekwini Mayor Cllr James Nxumalo said it was a good initiative and asked that something similar to be done for the CBD in Isipingo where a number of people were migrating.
Chairwoman of the Finance and Procurement Committee Fawzia Peer said the inner City reflected negatively or positively to visitors, which is why it is important to improve the look of it.
“Tourists stay in CBD hotels and visit a number of amenities in the area. The state of the inner City says what the City is about. It is most vital that we address this especially by reclaiming derelict and abandoned buildings.”