Shaping a new Durban

2014-07-30 00:00

DESCRIBED as one of Johannesburg’s most exciting land owners, Durban native Jonathan Liebmann is bringing his creativity — and money — home.

His mission is clear — bring people back into the CBD.

And he is putting his money where his mouth is — a possible R1 billion investment over the next five years with the first phase alone seeing a capital rush of R200 million.

Liebmann — who is credited with reviving the Johannesburg’s east central CBD through the creation of the Maboneng Precinct — has put together a crack Durban team to refurbish forgotten inner city buildings as well as build a new 15-storey multi-purpose block. The high rise will be the first large building built in Durban’s inner city excluding the Point district in nearly 20 years.

“We are interested in participating in the shaping of a new Durban. Durban just made sense,” said Liebmann.

Through his company Propertuity, local partner Marco Santoniccolo and Durban-based architecture firm Designworkshop:SA, the team look to refurbish four buildings on Pixley ka Seme Street and build a new multi-level structure on Morrison Street in an area known as ­Rivertown. The floor space will be sold off-plan beforehand.

“Urban decay is not just a Joburg or Durban issue but [affects] cities across Africa. Post-apartheid there was a flight in capital and cities have since reorganised themselves.

“But the fundamentals are strong. Durban is close to the port, has great beaches, close to transport and has a vision for an integrated transport plan as well as heritage buildings.”

The former Carmel College pupil (now Eden College Durban) who spent his childhood in Umhlanga and left in the late 1990s when it was “still a dorp”, said his mission is to bring people back into the city.

His company Propertuity was contacted by the eThekwini Metro to see if it was interested in development in the city.

“There are similarities between Maboneng and Durban’s Rivertown but the social fabrics are different. Joburg for instance is about mining, careers and money while Durban has its beach ­culture. We are about repurposing ­and introducing communities,” said ­Liebmann.

This weekend, the first of Propertuity’s projects will be open to the public — a warehouse built in 1906 on Morrison Street will be used as a Sunday market — coinciding with the opening of the International Union of Architects World Congress at the ICC.

Architect Andrew Makin — one of the designers of the new Constitutional Court building in Johannesburg — said a new tower development on Morrison Street, will include the market shed.

“The 15-storey tower will be conceptually and aesthetically different from the anonymous buildings common to the city centre. It will have a completely different character,” said Makin.


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