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Monday Feb 27, 2017

Durban budgets R68.5m for a 'walkable city'

The eThekwini Municipality is expected to pump R68.5 million into the Durban CBD rejuvenation programme that would see it transform into a "walkable city".

Phillip Sithole, acting deputy city manager of Economic Development, yesterday said this was at the implementation stage of the city's approved Local Area Master Plan to deal with the decay in the CBD and its surroundings.

Sithole said the plan was to deal with derelict buildings, disorganised trading and a badly-run transport system, and improve the level of cleanliness in the city.
"We now have the budget to start working on the city's beautification. We are not mentioning private investors who have injected money in projects on the outskirts of the city. The plan that we are implementing as a city will guide physical connections – roads, cycle, pedestrian as well as social and economic connections," said Sithole.

When the plan was approved, economic development and planning was instructed to identify "an appropriate" city-owned institutional structure to drive the implementation of the regeneration plan.

"The implementing agent will ensure intense urban management, marketing of the inner city regeneration, and monitor and evaluate progress.

"The plan advocates for a single, locally-based entity with dedicated resources to drive the urban rejuvenation of the CBD. The approach to the plan is based on a lengthy investigation of different models from successful cities which indicates that a localised, dedicated driver is the only option to drive a co-ordinated effort to all CBD projects," Sithole said.

He emphasised that the implementing agent would be sourced from within the city – a move that would create investor confidence and align the proper management of scarce resources to respond to the immediate and long-term socio-economic needs of the city.

Work on the project should start in April and is expected to take 12 months.

"Local regeneration experiences in Johannesburg and Cape Town, for example, are gearing towards dedicated institutions. Internationally, urban management is successfully delivered by localised inner-city institutions. For example, the circular quay and harbourside developments in Sydney, Australia, are managed by such an entity," he said.

During the research phase of the programme, the council identified multiple businesses operating within the inner city in a "disintegrated" fashion as a challenge and cause of decay in the CBD.

Sithole said these businesses had caused confusion and resulted in the duplication and poor co-ordination of delivering infrastructure, hence the strong call for a locally-based team to manage all urban management initiatives in eThekwini.

When the plan was approved last year, areas such as Victoria Embankment, Albert Park, Warwick Junction and Greyville were among those identified for renewal.

Heinz de Boer, DA council member, said the idea was good and would help to economically transform the city, but questioned how the city planned to take it forward.

He noted that it would require ongoing maintenance.

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