Mall expansion

2008-04-14 00:00

After the stuttering start to the whole project, Pietermaritzburg’s major shopping mall has been a great success. It may be recalled that there were several delays as interest groups lobbied for alternative sites. While the architecture remains controversial, the community can be pleased with what has emerged — a commercial drawing card incorporating shops, restaurants and cinemas, readily accessible from the city centre, the adjacent suburbs and the national route through the province, where a range of quality outlets are housed under one roof surrounded by plentiful safe parking. The fact that some 75 additional retailers are queueing for space is a measure of its success, and, having already seen one enlargement of the original structure, the municipal council has now approved proposals for a third phase of development. This will not only extend the shopping precinct but add office space and an hotel, all to be ready for the anticipated influx of 2010 soccer fans.

The city’s management can be justly satisfied with what is happening (and the developers and managers of the mall deserve their share of congratulation), but a note of caution would not be amiss. The existing mall and adjacent developments have had a major impact on traffic flow patterns and, with much traffic having to use the N3 itself, this is becoming dangerously problematic. A new, upmarket hotel might be desirable, but established hoteliers may not welcome the competition. There are rumours, too, that another new hotel might be built at the New England Road off-ramp, with further implications for traffic flow and competition.

All in all, the burgeoning mall may be encouraging evidence that the city as a whole is thriving, but the community may need reassurance that this new development is part of a broad and coherent strategy for the capitalís growth.

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