The transformative potential of coordinated public investment in reviving township economies through public and economic infrastructure investments and catalysing private sector investments was emphasised in the Budget Speech 2018 by then Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba as he referred to Bridge City in KwaZulu-Natal.
At Tongaat Hulett, we are proud of the Bridge City precinct and what our collaboration with the eThekwini Municipality and provincial authorities is achieving, but this is only one of several developments achieving significant upliftment through urban planning and mobilising private capital.
A different way of thinking
Mixed use precincts are fundamental to urban social and economic transformation. At its heart, the mixed nature of urban use is one of the single most transforming, uplifting, empowering, innovative, opportunity-creating and value-producing basic urban principles.
We are in a unique position to work to the benefit of all stakeholders. But key to this is to work side-by-side with the local authorities. eThekwini has a land use spatial framework and we actively collaborate with the municipality and other authorities to achieve the best possible use of land for the benefit of the broader Durban and KwaZulu-Natal community.
Tying all aspects of land use together is critical and this can only be done on a holistic basis. For example, eThekwini’s Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network (IRPTN) plan – under the GO!Durban brand – is creating linkages across the greater metropolitan region along nine key corridors as well as via feeder routes. By 2030 the city will be completely transformed with stations, roads, bus and rail lines interlinked to create connectivity.
Add to this the massive infrastructure development taking place, including bulk service supply such as water and sanitation, and you will see the need for a city-wide framework to be compiled as an integrated unit.
Reshaping the environment
Our planning philosophy is the complete antithesis of apartheid planning. As an example, under the previous regime Bridge City was a segregated area with a single access point, deliberately designed to exclude. Today it is a transport and growing business hub that explicitly links communities together. This is not unique in our developments. Cornubia, for example, is equally aimed at tying the urban knot.
If you study the history of cities, the reason they exist is to bring people together for social and commercial interaction. Being closer and being linked to other urban areas improves and enhances the lives of the people in the communities.
We believe very deeply in integration and proximity rather than segregation, as we work towards overcoming the apartheid era of spatial exclusion – dormitory towns with daily commutes to work and retail facilities which creates more wholesome environments with greater access to job opportunities as well as normal urban amenities.
How can an investor get involved in our vision and contribute towards the empowerment and enhancement of South African communities?
1. Take a long term view: A fundamental element is to look at the long-term picture. Our developments are decades in the making – Gateway, for example, represented highly interventionist thinking when it was developed in the late 1990s, being based on a bold new concept that has been proven successful.
2. Consider what you aim to achieve: Look at the big picture, think as broadly and as strategically as you can. If you had the opportunity without any of the usual business constraints, what would your business concept be? Then test that against the development framework and see where innovation can take you.
3. Spatial framework: Look for a region or municipality that has a well thought through spatial framework as this can give an investor confidence for 20 years. With strategically driven urban planning, much of the risk is removed for investors. To invest in a region where there is a developmental framework in place, this significantly reduces investment risk.
4. Collaborate with key stakeholders: One of our aims at Tongaat Hulett Developments is to derisk local investment. For example, our vision at Bridge City is to create a dynamic, harmonious and well balanced city precinct of the highest aesthetic, landscape and urban design. Through the establishment of a management association the precinct is well managed, has flourishing, safe open spaces and a very strong sustainable programme, which results in a more certain investment environment.
It is not surprising that the north Durban corridor is proving to be one of the investment hotspots in the country. Land is the catalyst for change. With eThekwini creating the framework and Tongaat Hulett facilitating the development, the ball can move to the developers’ court.
Reviving township economies and linking them back into the urban system is a silver bullet for transforming South Africa. Changing their essence from isolated dormitory towns to vibrant, thriving communities for social and commercial enterprise will reverse past ills and lead to greater prosperity for all.