The city of Durban is set to be unrecognisable by the year 2040, if the eThekwini Integrated Projects and Programmes Unit (IPPU) has its way.

An ambitious presentation, hosted by the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Tuesday, painted a rosy picture of a densely-populated but attractive inner city, with pavement cafes, multi-use high-rise dwellings, clean pedestrian precincts and a vibrant inner-city economy.

“The UN predicts that by 2030, 80% of our population will live in cities,” said presenter Zakhi Mkhize, Inner City Local Area Plan (LAP) project manager.  “At the moment we have around 70 000 people living in our inner-city – we want to increase that number to 450 000.  To do this, we need to re-align our streets, create multi-use high-rise accommodation, integrate people’s needs with their surroundings and create a dense network of local economic activities.”

Mkhize acknowledged that Durban in 2016 was not such an attractive place, with inner-city crime and grime, unequal spatial planning, poor public transport, congestion and islands of decay.

The city plans to harness three key economic drivers to transform the city.

Tourism is seen as the major element.  In an artist’s impression, the Durban of the future resembles Miami with high-rise residential blocks, landscaped pedestrian and cycling thoroughfares, street markets and pavement living.  The city would leverage both local and international events to boost tourism income.

The second economic driver is the promotion of small and medium businesses through re-purposing ‘bad’ buildings, providing efficient transport and IT services and cleaning and greening the city precincts to attract both residents and tourists.

The third driver is the creation of business opportunities around the health, public and business services sector.

“The development must be environmentally sustainable. Because Durban is prone to extreme weather such as storms and flooding, and the city creates a heat island.  We will cut down on vehicles in the city and plant more trees and gardens to cool the city.  We will manage our waste better, because recycling also has an economic benefit,” said Mkhize.

Studies showed that one-way streets hampered businesses, so the city plans to reconsider many of the main one-way thoroughfares in the City.  Aligned with this is a more efficient public transport system to better pedestrianise the city and reduce vehicle congestion.  There are also plans to expand public transport links to other areas of the city, such as the Berea, along with high-speed rail links to the King Shaka International Airport.

Already more than 50 workshops have been held with possible stakeholders and investors, and the city is aiming to make the project as inclusive and stakeholder-driven as possible.  It is envisaged that, once individual projects commence within the plan, more than 250 000 direct jobs will be created.

“Our vision is to make Durban Africa’s leading, most vibrant, liveable, walkable city centre,” concluded Mkhize.  “To this end we call on all stakeholders to get involved.  The Local Area Plan (LAP) is in the process of being finalised, with specific focus on three areas:  the Centrum, the Sports Precinct, and the Point.”

For a copy of the presentation, go here:  http://www.durban.gov.za/Resource_Centre/Current Projects and Programmes/Inner City LAP/Documents/Lap18March2016OpenDay.pptx

NIKI MOORE