Initiatives fit capital's changing character.

Posted On Thursday, 30 January 2003 10:01 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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Initiatives aimed at transforming and uplifting Pretoria's central business district (CBD) and surrounding areas into a more vibrant, safe and economically sound environment are gaining momentum.

Jeffrey WapnickThese initiatives are mostly driven by the Tshwane City Improvement District Management Forum, an umbrella body and non-profit company established by the local government and organised business.

Salim Yousuf, the president of the Pretoria Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says the forum's core function is to create sustainable projects that will 'rid our society of evils such as crime, prostitution and drugs to create an environment for job creation and improve the quality of life for all our people' in Tshwane.

Tshwane includes Pretoria,Centurion, Akasia, Ga-Rankuwa, Mabopane, Soshanguve, Winterveld and Winterveld .

Indicative of the successes to date, Yousuf says, is the doubling in the market value of properties in the Kerkstraat City Improvement District (CID) in the past three years, while all available retail space is now fully let.

Initiatives by the forum include the establishment of many CIDs; a closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance project to reduce crime; a project to solve the rates and taxes arrears of sectional title complexes; plans to establish markets for informal traders; the conversion of vacant office blocks into residential apartments; and Government Boulevard, a project to upgrade Struben Street by locating government departments there.

The problems and rapid change of character of Pretoria's CBD following the 1994 elections are attributable partly to policy decisions, such as the cutbacks to the SA National Defence Force and the relocation to Johannesburg of the provincial administration.

Pretoria's office market was previously dominated by the government, but these events left gaping vacancies. Escalating crime and other social ills contributed to a loss of faith by many investors and corporate tenants in the viability of the city centre.

Joshua Ngonyama, the chairman of the Inner City Partnership and manager of the CCTV project, says a closer partnership between the government, business and landowners in Tshwane has been fostered.

Ngonyama says CIDs are up and running in the CBD, Sunnyside and Arcadia, with others in the pipeline, including the extension of the Kerkstraat CID to include other streets in the CBD and the Burgerspark area.

Ngonyama says there are hopes to expand the concept to Brooklyn, Hatfield, Pretoria North and Centurion.

He stresses the concept does not involve taking over local government functions but complementing them.

One major project is the CCTV crime project, the first phase of which will be funded by the Tshwane council, with further phases funded by business.

Ngonyama says the business plan ensures the project will be sustainable because a surveillance camera system involving only the CBD would just push crime to other areas.

Pieter du Toit, the managing director of the Tshwane CID Forum, says the first phase of the CCTV project will cost about R64 million and will involve installing 76 surveillance cameras and a control room in the CBD. The second and third phases involve increasing the total number of cameras to 310, he says.

Ngonyama adds that there is a strong possibility of the US Agency for International Development becoming involved in a car number plate recognition system involving the installation of cameras on 10 gantries at the entrances and exits to Pretoria.

However, the implementation of the first phase of the project has been delayed because of legal challenges to the tender process. The second phase will be rolled out within 18 months of the completion of the first phase.

Plans are afoot to establish formal markets for informal traders, which would prevent clogging of pavements.

Yousuf says the Tshwane Council has a budget of R3 million for a trading market at Strijdom Square for a maximum of 250 informal traders.

'We've identified four areas for these markets: Strijdom Square, Bosman Street, Belle Ombre Station and Sunnyside, which is already operating very successfully under the administration of the Sunnyside CID.'

Another initiative is a pilot project to get rid of the rates and taxes arrears of many of the sectional title residential complexes in the city centre.

Du Toit says total council rates and taxes arrears are in excess of R2 billion, with sectional title complexes accounting for the bulk of the arrears.

'One pilot project showed a drastic turnaround within four months. Within the next two months this block should be back in the black.

'There are about 200 blocks in total that need urgent attention,' he says.

A further private sector initiative, which has already had an impact on the city centre, involves the conversion of vacant office buildings into residential accommodation.

Jeffrey Wapnick, the managing director of City Property, a local property administration company that has been the driving force behind many of the conversions, says that by the end of June, nine conversions and one greenfield residential development will have been completed in the city centre.

Wapnick says there is an enormous need for affordable residential accommodation in the city centre. The conversions have resulted in 1 200 apartments becoming available.

Office vacancies in the Pretoria CBD increased to 17.4 percent at the end of December from 16.1 percent at the end of October, according to the SA Property Owners' Association's quarterly office vacancy survey.

Gerrie Minnaar, a director of Lyons Property, admits the survey may distort the true vacancy situation, particularly in CBDs, because only A-grade and B-grade offices were included and most vacant offices in the CBDs were C grade and D grade.

But he says any new development has an uplifting effect on an area and he refers to the importance of the trade and industry department's campus-style development in Sunnyside.

A project to create a Government Boulevard along Struben Street is also intended to revitalise the city centre.

Lucky Mochalibane, the director of communications at the public works department, says Government Boulevard, a joint project between the government and the Tshwane Metropolitan Council, is a long-term project.

'Where possible and feasible, efforts will be made to relocate government departments requiring accommodation to Struben Street,' he says.

Negotiations to procure offices for the education department have already started, Mochalibane notes.

 This is part three in a four-part series on urban renewal, looking at Durban, Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg. Look out for part four tomorrow

Last modified on Thursday, 15 May 2014 16:51

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