Plans to shake up city

2014-07-29 00:00

DURBAN central could undergo its biggest shake-up in 20 years if an ambitious plan to turn the city into a pedestrian hub gets the residents’ nod.

The transformation of the inner city will see the historic Pixley ka Seme Street (formerly West Street) transformed into a walkway from the transport and market mecca of Warwick Junction to the iconic golden Durban beaches.

With the concept based on La Rambla Boulevard in Barcelona, Spain, the 2,5 km stretch of road will have minimal vehicle access, creating a new space for walkers, cyclists, public transport, shoppers, business people and tourists.

From Friday, a temporary five-week trial will be in place between Sylvester Ntuli (Brickhill Road) and Stalwart Simelane (Stanger Street) roads on Pixley ka Seme Street.

There will be a “road diet” reducing the current five traffic lanes to two, Astroturf will be rolled onto the closed road sections and café and market-type scenario will spring up complete with umbrellas, chairs, plants and benches.

Nina Saunders, who heads the city architect’s special projects, said if the temporary Durban “Rambla” is accepted by residents, it could be a “catalytic intervention” that would “transform the city” into a modern people friendly metropolis. It even has its own Twitter hashtag #Pixleyforpeople.

She is also the liaison officer between the International Union of World Architects Congress (UIA) being held in Durban next week, and the city.

This “spine”, as project designer and Durban-based architect Andrew Makin describes it, will form the basis for transforming Durban into a “human city”.

“Streets for human’s increase property value, retail viability and encourages dramatic increase of residential occupation,” said Makin.

“Smart cities have populations between three and five million and Durban fits into this bracket nicely,” he said, adding that it lends itself to real and sustainable innovation.

Much like the temporary linear park, the grand plan will see similar lane closures but in stages.

He said the spine will form the backbone of a “fine grained network” of the city that will include the unique arcades that link the harbour, high street retailers and businesses and various areas such as the Grey Street, Albert Park and sports precinct areas.

“By recognising Pixley ka Seme’s capacity to connect these villages, we are sewing back together and healing a broken city,” said Makin.

Saunder said the linear plaza would be a UIA legacy project.

“We still need final approval and the temporary park will help us gauge public interest and visualise the potential.”

• The UIA will be held from Sunday till August 7. Over 4 000 delegates from 96 countries are expected.

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