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Friday May 19, 2017

Ambitious renewal scheme for Durban CBD

The face of Durban, especially the city's skyline, is set for a dramatic makeover as new major developments take off in the next few years.

An artist's image of the proposed new tower planned for the site of the Durban Country Club.

The city unveiled plans, which will include a 3km extension of the beach promenade, densification of the CBD through high and medium-rise residential buildings and the construction of the highest tower in the southern hemisphere.

A major city beautification project is also on the cards, which will see owners of derelict buildings being legally pursued in an intensification of clean-up efforts.

In total there are 70 projects in the pipeline valued at a minimum of R100 million each, translating into an estimated R700 billion to R750bn investment pipeline.

Russel Curtis of Durban Investment Promotion Authority said 25 of these projects were being fast-tracked.

The R200m beachfront promenade extension is expected to be completed in time for the festive season next year.

The extension is in anticipation of the multibillion-rand Point Waterfront multi-use development with office parks, restaurants, commercial parking, hotels and a mall, said Durban Tourism head, Phillip Sithole.

Once it is completed, in about five years time, it will be 10 times bigger than the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

Sithole and Curtis were speaking on the sidelines of the Tourism Indaba, where some of the discussions focused on how Durban's tourism could be better packaged.

Curtis said there were plans afoot to make the city "more alive and vibrant" by increasing the inner-city residential population from about 80 000 currently, to 450 000 people.

Residents would be accommodated in refurbished buildings and new developments.

The Point area would include more new developments, while refurbishments would dominate the inner city.

"In the Workshop Centre area, you will see some new developments. We have a council-approved plan to provide brand new development, a lot of it medium-rise and highrise developments," Curtis said.

Meanwhile, the construction of the 88-storey Durban Iconic Tower was expected to begin at the Durban Country Club site in 2019, with completion expected in 2023.

The R7.3bn mixed-use project will create more than 5 000 jobs.

Some of the projects are a direct response to tourism demands.

Sithole said the council would embark on a drive to clean up the city and address derelict buildings, by dealing with "irresponsible owners" through the courts.

Strengthening security along the beach promenade was another priority for the city this year.

"Another element is cleanliness. There are precincts which have been identified as problematic, one of them being the Point at the back of the beachfront. By July, we will have a budget to clean up and there must be security at all times along the beach promenade, the beachfront and the entire precinct," Sithole said

The city beautification project will include the relocation of traders from some congested parts of the city centre.

"Next week, the city is approving the budget for the new financial year, and as part of that approval there will be millions set aside for the urban renewal programme," Sithole said.

The city was also looking forward to welcoming international hotel chains in uMhlanga as well as an extension of the 5-star Beverly Hills Hotel.

Curtis said there was a global phenomenon in which coastal metropolitan port cities were attracting investor interest, and Durban was also benefiting from the recognition that Africa was full of opportunity.

"Durban has huge pockets of untapped value-potential, and that is what is bringing investors here," he said.

On two international indices, Durban had been found to be the least congested metro in South Africa and to have the best returns on property investment, he said.

On the air travel front, the city is looking to expand its direct connectivity to other destinations.

Hamish Erskine, chief executive of Dube Tradeport, said plans were afoot for the establishment of a direct London to Durban route, which was a huge market. Erskine said talks had already started with British Airlines regarding the route.

Many airlines are increasingly finding the Durban route profitable. Mengistu Adelahu, the Durban manager for traffic and sales at Ethiopian Airlines, said the airline would like to fly daily to Durban.

The Addis Ababa to Durban schedule started in December 2015, with three flights a week, and increased to four flights, with plans to expand.

The Mercury


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